Example research essay topic: Documentary Review – 618 words

The documentary I watched is about Thaipusam
festival. I watched it on National Geographic
Channel and was amazed to discover the meaning,
the process and the traditions and practices of
Thaipusam. It was interesting to watch the
procession yet at the same time learn more about
it in detail. Every January/February, depending
upon the lunar month – on a full-moon day in the
Tamil month of Thai, the Hindus will celebrate
Thaipusam in honour of their Hindu God, Lord
Subramaniam (sometimes referred to as Lord
Murugan) who is a son of the Hindu God Shiva. He
is believed to represent virtue, youth and power.
As mentioned in the documentary, Thaipusam is
celebrated in Singapore and also in Malaysia,
although it does not occur in India, which is
rather strange to me. Thaipusam is important to
the Hindus, as they believe that it reinforces the
solidarity of the minority Hindu community and
symbolises the eternal struggle between good and

This festival is known for the devotees who
fulfil vows by shaving their heads bald or
performing rituals. Some have their cheeks, chest
and tongue pierced with flesh hooks or thin sharp
spear like metal rods that looks more like
skewers. Personally, I find the piercing ritual
rather horrifying as it was a gory scene with lots
of blood. Some of the devotees carry milk pots,
while some carry a ‘Kavadi’. The Kavadi is a large
festive structure, made of aluminium, covered with
colour and peacock feathers. It symbolises a
mountain, with an effigy of Murugan at the top.
Some Kavadi can reach 3-4 metres in height.

pull wheeled altars that are attached to the back
by hooks. They all involve some form of body
piercing. As they are said to be in a trance,
there is no pain of piercing such stuff on their
bodies. But as a viewer, it was rather painful for
my sight. Young devotees as early as the age of 9
also participates in this festival, they have to
go for a thorough bath during the pre-ceremonial
preparations to cleanse themselves physically and
also spiritually. Preparations start as early as
1am in the morning.

These acts of ultimate
devotion are performed to repay a debt. The
devotees make a private deal with Murugan, and vow
to perform the ritual annually for 3, 5 or 7 years
– sometimes even longer. After a month of fasting
and abstinence, which includes daily meditation, a
vegetarian diet and sleeping on a bare floor, they
gather in the early hours of the morning to
commence the festival. Devotees are believed to
attain a level of physical and mental harmony that
ensures no bleeding takes place or any pain is
felt. The Thaipusam festival that I saw on
National Geographic took place in Malaysia, in a
place called Batu Caves. It is one of the favorite
tourist spot today in Malaysia.

Situated at 12 km
north of Kuala Lumpur. Discovered over a hundred
years ago, the caves consist of three caves formed
by the massive limestone natural formations. The
most impressive and largest of the three caves is
the Temple Cave, which has 272 steps to climb to
the top. And that was where the Thaipusam
procession took place. It was overcrowded with
Hindus and tourists and it was smoky with incense
as seen on the television and I thought to myself
that luckily I was not there jostling with the
crowd. After watching the documentary, I had a
clearer view and understanding of Thaipusam which
has always puzzled me since young as a boy, living
in Singapore and watching the Thaipusam procession
passed me by for so many years without knowing
exactly and clearly what it means to the Hindu


Research essay sample on Documentary Review