In Sri Lanka last week thousands of penitents from all over the country and from neighbouring India went to the remote jungle shrine of Kataramgama for the annual Festival of penance.
Crowd near river
People dancing and drum playing. (10 shots)
People washing in river (7 shots)
Man rolling in ash.
Man holding pot of flames (2 shots)
Needles in man's arm.
Other people with pierced flesh. (4 shots)
Hooks being applied to man's back. (2 shots)
Man hanging by hooks. (3 shots)
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Background: In Sri Lanka last week thousands of penitents from all over the country and from neighbouring India went to the remote jungle shrine of Kataramgama for the annual Festival of penance.
Those suffering from illness or physical discomfort pray to the Lord Kataragama - and many of the most devoted followers take part in rituals of penance.
After bathing in the sacred river Menik Ganga to purify their bodies, followers rub themselves with holy ash, before the acts of penance.
Some carry pots of fire in their hands and on their heads, and seem unaffected by the heat. Others pierced themselves with needles - in the tongue and through the flesh on the arms, leg and back.
This year one man was suspended from a wooden frame and carried through the streets of Kataragama. He was attached to the frame by sharp hooks passes through the folds of flesh on his back.