Went firewalking in Udappu. Incidentally, my feet are killing me, but the actual devotees seemed fine. Me, personally, I have a blister on my right foot the size of my toe and my toes themselves are a bit swelly, but besides that fine. Udappu lady was rubbing toothpaste on my feet and asking if I’d been eating chicken. Alas, yes. The Udappu fire festival has been going on for hundreds of years and it is awesome. They visit all the local temples (Draupadi, Kali, etc) and kindle a ceremonial fire. Then they light the biggest bonfire I’ve ever seen, have great fun tending it, then walk on it at night.
I read on Wikipedia that firewalking actually doesn’t hurt and they do it for corporate retreats and stuff. All the village guys said it was fine as well, including Murugesaran, who seemed to be a bit of a main man. We had a lovely meal of isso and rice on the floor of his house the day before and he asked if I’d like to firewalk with them. I am curious like a cat so I said OK.
First thing is to change into a sarong and that’s about it. Everyone is wearing a knee length vesti (which is open, like the Burmese one as far as I know). They have maybe beads or a cloth around their necks but that’s about it. Hindu temples are great in that they’re basically shoes, shirt, no service. Then hand my camera to Murugesaran’s relatives and head down this long alley bordered by a pipe fence.
Wait for a while and then a car battery is dragged ahead of some lights. Then the main event, the chief priest carrying a powerful devotional item on his head. Everyone is like ‘aurora, aurora!’ and men start piling into the alley. For a while it’s a bit stampedey as everyone jostles for space. Weird thing is that the men are carrying their babies in, most of whom are prenaturally calm.
After a while they let us into the line. An organizers hand is gently on my right shoulder and the guy behind me is leaning on my left. With my glasses tucked into my sarong I can’t see that well, but I can see the red hot coals clear enough. I don’t remember that much about it. I just remember stepping on and my eyes opening like BING. Cause it really hurt. There were footsteps of those before glowing black before and I tried to follow them, taking five piece and out.
Walk out to the left like ‘Oh my God’, which is probably the wrong thing to say in front of Vishnu. Everyone’s like no pain, no pain and I’m like yeah. I dunno if it’s because I’m a non-believer or just have tender feet from rarely walking barefoot, but my feet WERE ON FIRE.
Lady rubbed toothpaste on them and I held them in front of the A/C all the way back to Colombo, periodically dousing them with water. Spent last night with my feet in and out of a bucket and don’t care to repeat the experience, though I’m glad I did it. Had I not I’d be regretting it for a week, and I do most of my work in bed anyways.