Building a huge fire then walking on it (YouTube)
My foot is only now healing from fire walking in Udappu. For future reference, it takes 2 days for the pain to go away, a week for the blister to deflate and two months for what looks like normal skin to emerge. The hardy people of Udappu, however, have no such problems. Each year they gather around the main kovil and other temples to honor their Hindu gods, Durga especially. The main feature of the August festival (and there are others) is the firewalking. However, there are a lot of other happenings, including scenes from the Mahabarata, holy relics and other rituals. There is also amazing music, some of which I’m happy to present here.
I’m uploading these videos now cause I just got a computer that can process them. The one above is the main firewalking scene. It really looks like a lot of fun. All the men gather literally tons of firewood and make a huge pyre. I’m talking about huge logs. Then they douse it with homemade lighter fluid and tend the flames constantly. The fire gets so hot that it’s impossible to get close to it, so they douse each other with buckets of water in order to be able to tend the thing. Then the thing settles into ash which they groom and pat into something one can walk across.
Finally, hundreds of men and boys line up and file across. No one seems to get burnt, except me. I think this is because my tender Colombo soles have touched naught but the kitchen floor for years. Or perhaps its my other soul. All in all it’s a lovely bit of humanity. I asked some fellow there if they wanted more people to come and they just shrugged and said it didn’t make a difference. They’re doing it for another reason entirely, and have been for hundreds of years. The background music for this scene is something Dominic Sansoni recorded and kindly let me use.
Kovil band playing reed, drums and cymbals (YouTube)
Besides the firewalking, however, the days of events leading up to it are great. One thing I noticed was the music. Here a very talented man is playing lead on a reed instrument (which I don’t know). He’s accompanied by drums and cymbals. I really dig the beat.
Girl leading chorus (YouTube)
Here a young lady is singing in the typical call and response fashion. Near the end you’re surrounded by people singing and responding and going ‘aurora’ (is that right?) when statues of gods go by. The music and singing is really quite beautiful.