Thimithi (Firewalking) Ceremony, Singapore 2002

Thimithi is the name of the annual Hindu fire walking ceremony which is a form of penance or thanksgiving in honour of the goddess Draupathi, heroine of the epic poem, the Mahabharata. Legend has it that she had to prove her innocence and fidelity by walking barefoot over hot coals.

Thimithi is held in the month of Aipasi, which is between the solar months of October and November. Celebrations begin at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Little India around 2am and a priest leads a grand procession through the streets to the Sri Mariamman Temple (of the rain goddess) where the Thimithi takes place. The fire-walking usually begins around 4am and a priest is the first to brave the long pit of embers, followed by other devotees.  The ritual attracts several thousand participants and even more spectators, many of whom wait long hours to witness relatives or friends perform.

After walking over the hot coals, the devotees wade through a pit filled with goat's milk, then rub their feet with yellow powdered turmeric. The result is that the ground around the area of the temple is stained with yellow.

Thousands of devotees will perform the fire walking ceremony, so police crowd control is needed to manage the throngs Many of the participants and spectators have been awake all night Dawn is approaching as these devotees await their turn in the pit The moon is still visible  in the lightening sky, set off by the glow of the lit figures in the gopuram of the temple Musicians just inside the entrance of the temple Some of the spectators have plenty of energy! Some of the spectators are tired out Devotees pray to the godess after having performed the ritual Some of the devotees prostrate themselves before the godess The turmeric power stains everything gold Devotees collect spices for offerings Walking the coals Walking the coals Walking the coals Raking the coals to keep them level, and hot Priests supervise the process and assist the devotees The priests guide devotees who may be in a state of frenzy The priests guide devotees who may be in a state of frenzy Having walked the coals,  it is time to pay homage to the shrine Priests also supervise the process Spectators wait for family and friends to perform Child sleeps oblivious to the crowds around Arial view shows the pit and the devotees waiting their turn Crowds of spectators watch from behind barriers and from the balcony above TV & newspaper cameramen catching the procedings Viewing the action from the balcony above The area of the temple is thronged with all kinds of people The area of the temple is thronged with all kinds of people Relaxing after the ceremony Relaxing after the ceremony Relaxing after the ceremony Food stall near the temple does a roaring trade