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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tamil Nadu Festivals - Theemidhi (Fire Walking Festval)

Theemidhi or Fire Walking Ceremony honours Goddess Draupadi, heroine of the epic poem "Mahabarata" and deified by the Hindus if South India as Draupadi Amman. Legend has it that she had to prove her innocence and fidelity by walking barefoot over hot coals. For weeks before the ceremony, devotees practice strict vegetarianism and fasting rituals in addition to observing austerities.

Every year, Theemidhi is celebrated in the month of October or November. On the actual day, the ceremony starts at 1.00am at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple where the devotees take ritual baths before setting off on a 4km walk to Sri Mariamman Temple.

The highlight of the ceremony is the walk devotees make across a pit of fire. The preparation of the four meter long pit of hot, burning coal that usually takes about five hours is especially important and is preceded with prayer and ritual.

Once the pit is ready, the chief priest of Sri Mariamman Temple would take the first walk across the scorching bed of coals.With intense concentration, barefooted devotees who wish to fulfill a vow make their walk across the pit - completing the challenge miraculously unscathed.

Absolute faith, courage and endurance of devotees can be witnessed at this breathtaking ceremony.


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