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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Continuity of festive season...

Here in Singapore, the festive season starts with Navarathiri. This makes me always, to feel that I'm nearing the year-end and going to enjoy few more holidays. Immediately after Saraswathi Pooja & Vijaya dhasami, you can observe 'Fire walking' festival, Deepavali, Ramzan (Hari Raya Haji), Christmas, New-year, Pongal, Thai Poosam, Chinese New year, Bakrid (Hari Raya Pusa) etc., eventhough we may get holidays only for few of these :-( :-(

Last week, it was 'Fire walking' festival....

The 10 day long 'Fire walking' festival takes place in Sri Mariamman temple, located in China town. This is one of the oldest Hindu moument in Singapore, which can be dated back to 1820s. (almost 2 centuries...). Being administered by the 'Hindu Endowment Board' (Govt. organisation), this is not only one of the favourite temples of the residents, but also one of the main attractions for the overseas tourists. [Sometime back, The Hindu covered it extensively]

Eventhough I termed the event as a '10 day long Fire walking' festival, the actual 'Fire walking' happens only on the last day. During this event, the devotees cross a four-metre bed of glowing coals in the courtyard of the temple. The hot stroll recreates a scene from “The Mahabharata”, our epic poem, in which the goddess Draupadi proves her innocence by walking over burning coals.

During the first 9 days, lots of offerings will be carried out by the devotees like 'paal kudam', 'anga pirathachanam' etc., Normally, it starts in the midnight (1:30 or 3 am) and ends by 9 - 10 am in the morning, to avoid the scorching sun. The number of devotees who used to visit during these days, are always enormous. Sometimes, few westeners also used to participate in those offerings. It makes us to feel that we are somewhere in Tirunelveli or Madurai during a festival event.

We, a few member volunteers group, used to go to the temple during the night time to man the ticket counters ... but not every night, since we take turns [just to relieve the temple staff, who used to work round the clock during these 10 days ]. For the last couple of years, we are visiting them like this, which makes us light mentally, eventhough half-day's official work may be affected (during the weekdays). We did visit last week, as usual...

Incidentally, this morning being the 10th day (2am-8am), the 'Fire-walking' event would have taken place... Eventhough I got an opportunity to visit this event today morning, I didn't go due to various reasons.. one being, the pressure to face Monday morning office hours :-(:-( Eventhough it falls on Monday morning always, hope I would be able to catch up with the event atleast next year...

Some more on this event...... Writeup #1, Writeup #2
214th post


Blogger visithra said...


U missed out the 9 emperor festival that is celebrated at the same time as navarathri by the chinese - n ppl wonder why we're such festive ppl ;p

Sunday, October 23, 2005 9:13:00 PM  
Blogger Kaps said...

I saw lot of people (yellow colour dress) in Little India yesterday and then it struck me that it was Theemithi festival.

Sunday, October 23, 2005 10:01:00 PM  
Blogger Cogito said...

I saw it on TV today morning. I thought the thee-midhi coincides with Thaipoosam . Am I mistaken ?

Monday, October 24, 2005 12:24:00 AM  
Blogger Ram.C said...

Visithra.. I didn't know anything about the '9 emperor festival'... I don't see any glimpse of it in Singapore in a big way. What is it all about?

Kaps.. yes, u got it correctly.

Cogito.. 'Thee midhi' is celebrtd during this 'Purattasi' tamil month in Sri Mariamman temple and 'thai poosam' will be celebrtd during the 'thai' month as the name tells you... in Sri Thendayuthapani temple at Tank road.

Monday, October 24, 2005 12:29:00 AM  
Blogger Ramana Siddharth said...

Hari Raya Haji..is that another name 4 those 2 muslim festivals?china town madri anga india town kuda iruke pola iruke..is that firewalking picture taken in singapore?gr8 that u spare ur time 2 volenteer 4 these guys.

btw i truely admire these guys who walk on fire and all.future wife keta kuda na idalam panamaten!!

Monday, October 24, 2005 7:27:00 AM  
Blogger Raju said...

mmm.. surprising and interesting news. I thought only in Tamilnadu villages devotees involve in 'fire walking' kinda rituals..

Any idea what section of the society they largely belong to?

Monday, October 24, 2005 7:35:00 AM  
Blogger TJ said...

super!! btw, ramarajan padam maadhiri, thee midikkumbodhu background song, appuram oru fight ellam undaa :P

Monday, October 24, 2005 2:39:00 PM  
Blogger Narayanan Venkitu said...

Never knew about this kind of celebration in Singapore.!!
Interesting and thanks for the links.

The more I read, the more I see the influence of South India on singapore.!! 1820 is a long time back.!! Amazing.!!

I wish I could take my kids to such events.! I've seen these in my village and was fascinated.!

Monday, October 24, 2005 6:00:00 PM  
Blogger Ganesh said...

Neenga thee mithikalaiya Ram ?

Monday, October 24, 2005 6:48:00 PM  
Blogger Ram.C said...

Siddharth.. there are two names.. 'Hari Raya Haji' for Ramzan and 'Hari Raya Pusa' for Bakrid. And yes, we have 'little india', will post a picture in few days time on Deepavali celebrations. This post's photo is from the files of 'The Economist' on Singapore Firewalking festival.....

Raju.. Most of the people who get into the pit, are tamilians only.... who are second generation / third generation citizens whose forefathers landed in Singapore in the last two centuries for their betterment. Anyone who has a strong willpower and mental strength can get into this. that's what I was told.

TJ.. There may be 'amman' songs on the background to keep them energized. I cannot vouch it, since I had never been there on this particular day.

Mr.Narayanan.. Yes, definitely you can feel the influence of South Indian culture here. There are many more things, on which I may drop some posts here and there.

Monday, October 24, 2005 6:55:00 PM  
Blogger Ram.C said...

Ganesh.. NO, I haven't got involved in it, yet.. I do participate in 'Thai poosam' proceedings.. I will keep you guys posted in Jan-06 on that....

Monday, October 24, 2005 6:57:00 PM  
Blogger Somu said...

Oops... Namma Tamil cinema maathiri irrukku ? I really don't know what motivates them to walk on balls of fire.

Monday, October 24, 2005 11:21:00 PM  
Blogger visithra said...


here's a photo essay

basically they obserb vegetarianism during the time - and erect huge stages with the idols

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 1:39:00 AM  
Blogger vee-jay said...

Actually surprised to hear about these celebrations in SG.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 4:29:00 AM  
Blogger Arjuna_Speaks said...

Ram - I am wondering why on earth do they walk on the fire! :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 7:02:00 AM  
Blogger Ram.C said...

Somu.. It is a sort of offering / penance, similar to those which sages of those days had undergone (as we had read in the epics).

Visithra.. yes.. I had gone thru the link. hmm.. Interesting photos.

VJ.. yes it happens.

Arjuna.. I was expecting this kind of query from some corner. If we have some belief on fasting for the gods whom we pray, offering our hair or something else or if we believe in penance which were supposedly undergone by those earlier day sages, then we may have to accept this as well. Eventhough, some may feel that it is harsh and painful to the body, it is similar to some other painful offerings we make.

I know some ladies who go on 'Santhoshi Madha' viratham on Fridays.. We may call that as a disciplining our body, isn't it? Some people go into severe offerings like this 'fire walking'.. which they feel as a desirable ones.. They would like to offer something tough to achieve, which they assume that the God expects them to offer. Again, individual perception differs.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 7:17:00 AM  
Blogger G3 said...

I was really surprised in my first year here in Singapore. Temple-nnu vandha Singapore Indians do that extra bit without a second thought!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 9:27:00 AM  
Blogger AF said...

Oh I'm very surprised about this event. Never heard of this before.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 3:15:00 PM  
Blogger Ram.C said...

Gayathri.. Since this is a small community in SG, these things are visible. Even in India, all these things are happening which may be a miniscule affair in that ocean, which we obviously miss out.

AF.. Before my arrival, I too didn't know about it. Now, it is a regular yearly affair :-) :-)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005 12:22:00 AM  

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