BUTTERWORTH, MALAYSIA, June 14, 2013 (nst.com): A 100,000 strong crowd -- largely made up of Hindu devotees, while people of other faiths included locals and tourists from Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal and India -- thronged the Arulmigu Sree Maha Mariamman Devasthanam temple for the annual seven-day fire-walking festival here recently.
The festival started with a fire-walking ritual at Jalan Mengkuang, where some 3,000 devotees walked over a 22 ft. long and 6.5 ft. wide poo-kuli (fire pit). This fire-walking tradition in Butterworth has been practiced for over a century.
On Tuesday, more than 5,000 devotees, including local Chinese and foreigners, fulfilled their vows by carrying decorated kavadis, paal kudams (milk pots), agni satee (pot of burning fire), shaving their heads, performing the angga paravesam (rolling on the floor), carrying the maa vilakku (lighted lamp made of flour) and performing the madi pitchai (fulfilling vows by asking for alms).
Temple chairman Parthiban Sanderasaggaran said 10 days prior to the fire-walking ritual, the kodi yaettram (flag-raising ceremony) signified the start of the festival. "Hindus celebrating the festival will adhere to a strict vegetarian diet for at least 21 days. "The celebration is the longest and second largest Hindu event in the state," he said. Parthiban said the festival has been celebrated at the same place for more than 140 years.
On the third day, the silver chariot bearing the statue of the deity Arulmigu Sree Maha Mariamman was taken on a 12 mile procession around the northern part of the town. Devotees, well-wishers, businessmen and women, especially from the Chinese community in Jalan Raja Uda, broke thousands of coconuts on the streets as a symbol of cleansing to pave the way for the chariot to pass.