World Music Celebrations: Burning Hills & Cow Races

Jan 18, 2013

Each week on World Music (Saturday nights from 8-10 on KSTX 89.1 FM), I take a look at celebrations happening around the world. This week, there'll be a painful march in Singapore, a burning hill in Japan, and a cow race in Australia! Read more about these unique festivals below, and see video of past celebrations!


To be called ‘thick skinned’ may be perceived as an insult, but in the case of participating in Thaipusam in Singapore, it could be a definite advantage. The Thaipusam is a Hindu festival honoring Lord Subramanya with a street procession. The main participants wear large contraptions known as Kavadis. These elaborate metal frames are fastened to the skin by hooks and wires, and some marchers opt to increase the pain factor by hanging weights to their kavadi. As the procession marches forward, they are accompanied by well wishers who bang drums and give shouts of encouragement. The route is two and one half long miles.


Everyone enjoys a good bonfire, so how about a burning hill? In Nara, Japan once a year, the whole hillside of the Wakakusayama Hill is set alight. The evening starts with an impressive fireworks display, and monks from a nearby monastery are charged with igniting the hillside using torches lit from a sacred fire. They announce their intention of starting the pyrotechnics by blowing on large conch shells. Within a relatively short period of time the night sky is glowing red from the massive fire. The best spot to admire the sight is at the foot of the hill amongst the hundred thousand spectators.


Australia is known for sheep rearing, but cows also have their day in the sun at the annual Cow Race in Mount Compass. 2013 will be the 39th race, so it’s obviously a well established event. Cow racing sounds rather pedantic, but the cows entered for the event appear to be of the frisky kind. The race is not so much a race but more an endurance test. The winner is the person who can successfully mount, hang on and maybe travel some ground before being hurled to the ground.     

You can hear more about these and other celebrations happening around the world this and every Saturday on World Music with Deirdre Saravia, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM.