Thousands of Hindus walked across burning embers in an annual ritual in Singapore at the weekend. Firewalking is a long-standing religious tradition in several parts of Asia including India and China.
But what is fire walking and what compels people to walk across scorching embers with their bare feet?
In Singapore, the annual fire walking event is known as The Theemithi Festival, a 3-month long event held at the country’s oldest Hindu temple, the Sri Mariamman Temple. The grand finale ends with devotees fire walking.
What is the Theemithi Firewalking Festival?
The Theemithi fire walking festival has been held in Singapore for the last 150 years – but the practice of fire walking is much older. The earliest recorded fire walk was performed as a competition between two Brahmin priests in India around 1200 BCE.
The tradition continued as a kind of healing ceremony and was introduced to Singapore by the villagers of Tami Nadu in the south of India. Participants walk across burning embers spread across a shallow trench dug into the ground.
In modern times, firewalking events have been held in Europe and the USA. However, there are varying degrees of success. Some people get burnt. Yet not everybody.
It’s a mystery why some people get burnt whilst others don’t, but successful participants claim you will be unharmed if you have faith in the goddesses Sri Mariamman and Sri Draupadi Amman.
The Relevance of Hindu Goddesses
The goddesses Sri Mariamman and Sri Draupadai Amman are said to be incarnations of the goddess Shakti (Kali), the mother goddess of the Indus Valley and wife of the Supreme God, Shiva.
Shakti is regarded as a creative power and is still worshipped in India but under different names including, Parvati or more commonly Kali, the goddess that destroys “evil”. In psychological terms, this means overcoming destructive behaviours.
She was known as Mariamman in Tamil Nadu and later as Draupadi Amman, the female protagonist of the Indian epic, the Mahabharata. Both Draupadai Amman and Shakti were transformed (or reborn) in a fire sacrifice called yajna.
It is the ancient myths that lend the idea to fire walking being a mode of healing. In India, a consciousness-based approach towards health and healing is a common practice.
Is Firewalking Safe?
Despite thousands of fire walkers escaping burns, dozens are not so fortunate. According to some commentators, whether you get burned or not is a matter of mindset.
The general view is that if you fear you will get burned, you will get burned. But, as experienced fire walkers claim, if you have faith that the goddesses will protect you, you don’t get burned.
The takeaway from fire walking is that the goddesses represent feminine aspects of our personality that includes compassion, love, gratitude and acceptance. These attitudes toward life have also been shown to have healing qualities.
We don’t recommend walking across burning coals to cleanse “evil”. However, we do recommend being more compassionate with yourself and others. When we accept people for who they are and show gratitude for everything we have, we live life from a love-based centre.