The Mariamman (Mas Ree Yaman) temple in Singapore was astir October 19, when hundreds of devotees, and thousands of others, came to watch the annual fire-walking purification ceremony.
LS. Mariamman temple
MS. People outside temple
MS. People enter temple
CU. Priest worshipping
MLS. Worshippers in temple
MS. Attendant pours milk into water trench
MS. Goddess carried in procession
CS. Attendants preparing fire
MSC. Attendant pours water over another attendants head
MS. Devotee walking over fire
MCU. Legs of devotee
MS. Another devotee fire-walking
MS. Several devotees fire-walking
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Background: The Mariamman (Mas Ree Yaman) temple in Singapore was astir October 19, when hundreds of devotees, and thousands of others, came to watch the annual fire-walking purification ceremony.
Attendants prepare a huge fire -20 feet long and 10 feet wide - in the temple courtyard. Two watermelons - modern replacements for offerings of goat's head, traditionally thrown into the fire in ancient times. Then the hot embers are spread out, as the devotees, who had been undergoing a self-purification fast in preparation for the fire-walking, emerge from the temple.
An effigy of a Hindu goddess is taken in procession through the temple courtyard. Special chantings of prayers and offerings follow, as worshippers flock to the effigy.
This self-torturing ceremony, originating in India, has been banned there, but continues to be observed among Singapore Hindus (Indians) of the same faith. First to cross the fire was an elderly priest carrying flowers and offerings to the goddess. Other followed in quick succession.
70 devotees submitted themselves to the supreme test by walking over the hot embers, and emerged without a scratch. Some ran over the fire, but the veterans walked leisurely across. This yearly act of faith is observed as a penance, or in fulfilment of vows taken by the devotees during the past year.