Head priest leads Fire Walking Festival at Sri Mariamman Temple

A woman spectator falls into a trance at the annual fire walking festival for Hindu devotees at Sri Mariamman Temple. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
A woman spectator falls into a trance at the annual fire walking festival for Hindu devotees at Sri Mariamman Temple. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Spectators at the annual fire walking festival for Hindu devotees at Sri Mariamman Temple. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Spectators at the annual fire walking festival for Hindu devotees at Sri Mariamman Temple. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
A Hindu devotee at the annual fire walking festival at Sri Mariamman Temple. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
A Hindu devotee at the annual fire walking festival at Sri Mariamman Temple. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Head priest of the Sri Mariamman Temple K. Swaminathan starts off the annual Fire Walking Festival by being the first to walk on the fire on Sunday night. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Head priest of the Sri Mariamman Temple K. Swaminathan starts off the annual Fire Walking Festival by being the first to walk on the fire on Sunday night. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Head priest of the Sri Mariamman Temple, K. Swaminathan, was the first to walk across a pit of fiery hot coals at the annual Fire Walking Festival on Sunday night.

He led 4,500 male devotees from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple on Serangoon Road to the ritual at the Sri Mariamman Temple on South Bridge Road.

Fire walking is a South Indian festival honouring the Hindu goddess Sri Draupadi, who is the wife of the five Pandava brothers who walked on hot coals to prove her purity.

Only men are allowed in the procession and they are encouraged to wear yellow or saffron-coloured clothes.

Male devotees above the age of 16 walk barefoot across the pit in penance, thanksgiving and in honour of the goddess. Female devotees walk around the pit at the same time. After crossing, the men dip their feet in a trough of milk.

limyihan@sph.com.sg