Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thimithi Firewalking Festival @ Sri Mariamman Temple

Firewalking at the Sri Mariamman Temple

An hour before midnight on Sunday, I joined the crowds witnessing the Thimithi Firewalking Festival  at the Sri Mariamman Temple in South Bridge Road. Thousands of devotees and their supporters and tourists swarmed the brightly-lit temple.

The Hindu festival, which originated from Tamil Nadu, south India, is held in honour of the goddess Draupadi Amman, and is an expression of faith and penance.Thimithi has been practised in Singapore since 1840 in Sri Mariamman Temple, the largest and oldest Hindu temple here.

There were too many spectators so I was only allowed to take one photo of the firewalking when I was admitted into the temple grounds.

About 4,000 devotees took part in this annual Firewalking Festival, braving the heat by walking on a 4m-long fire pit of smouldering coal and sandalwood barefooted.

I was surprised at the number of non-Indians, several Chinese who walked the fire pit for the first time. The non-Indian devotees undergo the same preparation as their Indian counterparts: They observe a strict vegetarian diet, bathe to cleanse themselves before the firewalking.

Aren't they afraid of getting burnt by the hot coals? The Hindus devotees and priests believe that they will be burnt only if they are impure. After the fire walking is done, they walk through a pit of goat's milk.

I was not satisfied with one photo of the firewalking, so I tried ways and means to take more photos. Luckily I was able to take another shot by climbing up to the first floor of the temple.

I noticed that the devotees' feet were coated with a yellow powder after the ceremony. It was turmeric powder which is supposed to cool down the 'burning feet'.

I met Mr Rajan (far right in photo) who is an employee with Sengkang Town Council. He was participating in the firewalking with his friends. He has been doing it for the past 28 years, since the age of 17.

He told me that devotees have to fast for up to a month before the festival, taking vegetarian meals and giving up comforts such as footwear, beds and pillows to prepare themselves for the event.

Mr Rajan showed me the kanganam which consists of a coin, some turmeric and a sacred yellow thread tied to his wrists.

Supporters of the devotees can watch the live firewalking from TVs placed inside and outside the temple.

Shoes are not allowed inside the temple grounds, so we have to leave them at the gates. As parts of the roads were closed and our car was parked quite a distance away, it was weird running around the streets barefooted. :D

Supper for the hungry mass! Steam flat rice cakes with vegetarian curry. I didn't ask for some as I was too shy lah. :P

The festival attracted thousands, including supporters of the devotees and tourists.

First Commenter -


  1. Such preparation before the fire walking ritual.

    Any fire-walking photos coming up soon, ECL?

    Or better still, any photo of you fire walking. xD

  2. I haven't had the chance to see this when I was there in Singapore...it's a pity.

    Ohh I miss Singapore food ECL!! :)

  3. Ha ha ha yeah finally taking some time off from my games to do a little bloghopping.. me no mood to blog la lately... stuff in real life making me a little depressed and anxious, to avoid all that .. I turn to my games.. :(

  4. I am also fascinated by fire walkers, like how do they do that and how come it doesn't hurt? Yowzaaa! I know abt the fasting and what not prior to the walk but still, it's hard to picture no pain at all when one walks on burning coal yes?

  5. Thanks for sharing the pics dearie! Ha ha so you weren't satisfied with just one pic eh? :)

  6. Thanks so much for visiting me when you can, hope you are doing well and big hugs for you! :):):)

  7. PS. Have you seen my latest baby cat? OMG I can't believe I have 4 cats now but seriously, the latest one was too cute to forget... so happily brought him home ha ha! :)

  8. Lina,
    Women are not allowed to do the firewalking. So there will be no photo of ECL doing it.

    Lucky!! phew! hahaha...

  9. Jade!!

    I miss you too. Invite me to your farm in the Philippines and I will cook Singapore food for you! :D

    When are you coming to visit?

  10. Hi Marzie!

    Finally you could take time off from your games to visit. :D

    Many of the firewalkers appeared fine after the ritual. It's amazing. Mr Rajan whom I spoke to has been doing it for the past 28 years and he looked so cool after the firewalking.

    I won't dare to try. I have a low threshold for pain. hehe...

    Oooo.... you got another kitty! I must go and see. :)

  11. How lucky you were to be part of this festival. Its always great to learn about other cultures & open our minds. Wow if I was there I wouldn't have been shy to take the rice & curry lah. And maybe go back for second service lol.

  12. ECL, thanks for you detailed nice account of the event! Brave of you to join in such a big crowd.

  13. What an amazing event. Did anyone scream out in pain? I would think no one is pure enough to avoid getting burnt.


  14. I have seen once somebody walking over burning coal. And he wasn't hurt at all.
    The Hindu festival looks very interesting !
    If you want to see the tomb of Tutankhamon I mean an exposition of a replica go : here it was marvellous !

  15. Very intersting photos (as usual:) I once accidentally stepped on hot coals covered with sand at the beach... I mediated on my guru all night and though it left marks for days the sting departed.

  16. Looks like so much fun!

    Oh, that's surely is big golden bracelet!!!!!

  17. Did you try walking on the coals? :D I'm not sure how they can restrict people from taking just one photo, but you are resourceful. That rice cake and curry sure sounds good.

  18. I was managing my SEO for my fire walking content images. Google pop out your blog, am glad another Singaporean visit the fire walking ceremony and write about it. Thank you for sharing.

    If you like check out my pictures i documented last year. Let me know what you think. :) http://captureasia.photoshelter.com/gallery/Thimithi-Festival-Singapore-Documentary-Photography/G0000.8RjOfNn4EQ/

  19. Hello sister ,
    My mother believes in religion and she frequently visits temples and they take these Theemithi vizha as a grand festival . This tradition is much more popular in southern districts .

    By the way,If you are in Chennai the capital city of Tamilnadu, Please meet me.

  20. such an interesting ritual but it's hard to imagine those people walking barefoot on fire. i admire their bravery and devotion.

  21. Wow mind over matter! That's something Bananaz is amazed at the ability when one is very focus. Sad they do not allow women to walk WhyAskWhy?

  22. Whao..interesting inside to the firewalking ritual.. I haven't experience it..but it's certainly something which I would want the kids to experience seeing when they are older.

  23. I haven't had the chance to see this when I was there in Singapore...it's a prity.