Hundreds of fire walkers prepare to honour goddess

2010-03-24 00:00

AROUND 20 000 devotees are expected to descend on the Sri Siva Soobramaniar and Marriamen Temples on Langalibalele Street in the next 10 days as festivities, which begin today, lead up to the traditional fire-walking ceremony on Good Friday.

About 400 people will walk barefoot over glowing embers in devotion to the goddess Druapathi.

Ancient Hindu texts associate Druapathi with fire, and the fire walkers will abstain from “physical pleasures” over the next 10 days in preparation for the eight-metre walk over the burning coals.

“It is a way of showing devotion to the mother, a way of gaining her favour,” said the temples’ Brenda Vather.

The temples’ chairperson, Prega Padayachee, said the number of fire wal­kers has increased since women joined the throng of male devotees.

“In the past few years, since women have walked too, we have around 400 people walking over the coals,” he said.

The festivities began at 5 am this morning with prayers and a flag hoisting ceremony.

Vather said that over the next 10 days, “a festive atmosphere” will envelop the temple and its surrounds.

Vather is part of a group selling pooja (or prayer) baskets, which consist of milk, fruit and incense, at the temple entrance. The baskets will be used by the devotees for their prayers, while the money will be used for the temples’ upkeep.

On Friday, April 2, devotees will walk across the pit towards the Mother Temple, which is one of only four Hindu temples in KwaZulu-Natal to perform the rite.

The ritual was brought to South Africa by south Indians in 1860.

According to Vather, “a single brick cannot be touched on the Mother Temple” as it is a historical landmark in Pietermaritzburg.

“It is over 130 years old,” she said.

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