The festival is normally a popular spectacle, because of the colourful processions and the practice of many participants who use hooks and spears to pierce their flesh as a form of penance.

 

But Hindu activists called for a boycott of the temple in protest at the government's treatment of ethnic minorities, urging pilgrims to use other temples instead.

 

The Batu Caves temple is controlled by the Malaysian Indian Congress - a political party in the ruling National Front coalition which activists accuse of not doing enough for the ethnic Indian community.

 

Last November a massive rally in Kuala Lumpur by ethnic Indians protesting against alleged official discrimination was broken up by police using tear gas and water cannon.

 

Five protest organisers have since been arrested under Malaysia's Internal Security Act which allows for indefinite detention without trial.