Giving thanks for good grades
13-year-old among over 100 devotees in Thaipusam procession
He carried a 7kg wooden kavadi on his small 35kg frame.
Not once did Shankar Kannan, 13, slow down his pace on his 7km journey, which he made barefoot on the tarmac streets of downtown Singapore.
His walk started at 5.30pm on Monday evening, from Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple at Keong Saik Road.
The youngster was one of more than 100 kavadi-bearers taking part in the silver chariot procession of Lord Murugan on the eve of Thaipusam.
Kavadis are intricate structures of steel and wood that incorporate sharp body piercings and milk pots as offerings.
"I don't feel tired at all," Shankar told The New Paper as he marched against the backdrop of a setting sun.
It was nightfall when he finally arrived at his destination - Sri Thendayuthapani Temple at Tank Road - after walking for three hours.
But it was not time for him to rest yet.
He was greeted with rapturous cheers as a crowd of around 5,000 packed the temple. Wives, mothers and daughters welcomed the male kavadi-bearers.
Along with fellow devotees, Shankar broke into a dance called kavadi attam.
In the ceremonial dance, they tipped their kavadis forwards and back to the beat of the tabla, to provide entertainment for the Hindu deities, including Lord Murugan, the god of war.
Devotees carry kavadis as a form of offering to the Hindu deity in exchange for answered prayers.
For Shankar, it was because he did well enough in his Primary School Leaving Examination to enter St Joseph's Institution (SJI), the secondary school of his choice.
The Secondary 2 student said: "I was quite worried for my weaker subjects like Maths and English.
"SJI was my dream school and I prayed I would do well enough to enter."
Shankar scored 250 for his PSLE, with an A* in Maths and A in English.
This year, he is praying for good results again.
"My streaming exams are coming up and I hope Lord Murugan will bless me again," he said.
For another kavadi-bearer, who wanted to be known only as Mr Murugan, it was for help in securing a job.
Mr Murugan, 46, a maintenance manager at an oil and petroleum company, was retrenched in 2000 and 2009. Both times, he made a promise that he would carry a kavadi if the deity blessed him with a new job. On both occasions, his wishes came true within a week.
The father of four children aged nine to 22, said: "Without a job, I couldn't run my family.
"So I prayed to Lord Murugan that I would find work. In my heart, I signed a contract with Lord Murugan that I would show my gratitude by carrying a kavadi."
Mr Murugan has been taking part in the procession every year since 2000, and he has no plans to stop.
"This is my way of thanking Lord Murugan. I will keep on doing it as long as I'm fit."
"SJI was my dream school and I prayed I would do well enough to enter... My streaming exams are coming up and I hope Lord Murugan will bless me again."
- Shankar Kannan, 13