4,000 devotees participate in annual fire-walking festival

Devotees preparing the pit for the annual fire walking festival at Sri Mariamman Temple on Oct 8, 2017.
Devotees preparing the pit for the annual fire walking festival at Sri Mariamman Temple on Oct 8, 2017.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Devotees waiting in queue to take part in the annual fire walking festival at Sri Mariamman Temple on Oct 8, 2017.
Devotees waiting in queue to take part in the annual fire walking festival at Sri Mariamman Temple on Oct 8, 2017.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
A devotee making his way across burning charcoal during the annual fire walking festival at Sri Mariamman Temple on Oct 8, 2017.
A devotee making his way across burning charcoal during the annual fire walking festival at Sri Mariamman Temple on Oct 8, 2017.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Close to 4,000 male devotees walked barefoot across a bed of burning charcoal, and then stepped into a pit of milk, in observation of the Theemithi, or fire-walking festival on Sunday (Oct 8).

The annual event which took place at the Sri Mariamman Temple in Chinatown, was attended by 1,500 public observers.

Held a week before Deepavali, the ritual is a form of penance or thanksgiving in honour of Hindu goddess Sri Drowpathai Amman.

The ritual started at around 9pm. Prior to the fire walking, devotees formed a procession from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road to Sri Mariamman Temple - an approximately 5km walk.

Some 275 female devotees will walk around the fire pit after the ritual ends in the early hours of Monday morning.

The Sri Mariamman Temple - the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore - has been the venue for Theemithi since 1840.

The event was also live-streamed on the Facebook page of the Hindu Endowments Board, which manages the temple.

Preparations for the festival started on Sept 22 the setting up of the pit started on Sunday morning.

Joining the devotees was Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and the Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

There were also about 30 Chinese devotees who took part in the festival - donating and participating in prayers, making offerings and taking on fire-walking as an act of faith.

Before the fire walk, all devotees have to observe a strict vegetarian diet for at least three days and bathe to cleanse themselves before getting the kanganam which consists of a coin, some tumeric and a sacred yellow thread tied to their wrists.