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 -