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Woman With Peaks In Her Tongue, Traditional Painting On Her Forehead And A Flower Garland During A Fire Walking Ceremony, Madurai, South India

In Hindu society, fire walking is an important ritual, practiced by certain sections of Hindu society and considered as a physical and spiritual exploit; the ceremonial involves walking over a bed of coals, an act of self purification performed by men and women of all ages; the ritual is known as thimithi and dedicated to ‘Draupadi Amman of Mahabharata’ – an important female deity associated with Shakti cult in Tamil Culture and also to numerous other village deities found in South India, which are directly or indirectly related to Shakti cult; for some devotees it is part of a vow in which they promise to walk on fire in exchange for a wish granted by Amman, believing that if they are blessed by Amman then they will come out unscathed; I even saw some people carrying their children on their shoulders as part of the rite; Men can walk on fire because coal from wood has less thermal capacities, which means that less heat is transferred to the feet while crossing on fire; the period of contact between burning coals and feet is for a very short moment, but even with those scientific explanations, you need a lot of courage to enter the inferno as temperature rises all around; after the walk on fire, the family comes to the devotee and bless him


© Eric Lafforgue

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Taken on February 12, 2008