India is a vast nation which has a huge cultural diversity. There are some amazing festivals and rituals that this country has to follow and there are also some rather astonishing ones as well. Theemithi or the walking on fire ritual which is prominent in Tamil Nadu is definitely one ritual that takes a lot of people by surprise.
Famous in South of India, the ritual is also practiced in places such as South Africa, Malaysia, Mauritius and other parts of the world. However, it is celebrated in a really grand way in the south of India specifically in Tamil Nadu.
The ritual of Theemithi involves the devotees working on a bed of charcoal lit fire in order for them to get their desires and wishes fulfilled by goddess Draupadi. For those that are not aware, Draupadi is a character from the Mahabharata and the five Pandava brothers married her.
This festival usually Falls between the months of October and November and is celebrated in the month of Aipsai according to the Tamil calendar.
The preparations for the event involves a lot of rituals. It goes on for about two and a half months. During this time, the complete story of the Mahabharata is re-enacted. This enactment depicts 18 discernible rites. All rituals of Theemithi are in honor of a female deity that goes by the name of Amman. There are other deities as well that are directly connected with the Shakti cult associated with the Tamil culture and South Indian culture. The ritual of Theemithi is considered a ceremony of purification of oneself to attain spiritualism. Since Theemithi is done to worship Lord Amman, the followers believe that nothing bad can happen to them when they walk on fire and Goddess Amman will shower her blessings on them and they will walk through unscathed.
Local residents also refer to Theemithi as Pomethipu which means flower walking and Poo Methippu. Theemithi got this name because the bed of hot coals that the worshipper’s walk-on looks like a collection of orange flowers. Theemithi has no gender preference and men, as well as women, can participate in this. Sometimes children also look to participate in this ritual. If they are unable to walk through the bed of coals, they are carried through by their parents on their shoulders.
The Theemithi Legend
Although Draupadi is not associated with Theemithi, there are a number of scriptures that speak about Theemithi. It is said that Sita undertook this test after she was rescued from Lanka by Lord Ram. Theemithi is said to be an act of purification. It is not a one-day ritual however it is a culmination of a number of rituals that are depicted in the Mahabharata. The main message behind Theemithi is the victory of the Pandavas over the Kauravas in the Mahabharata. In the Mahabharata, the Pandava brothers lost in a gambling session and put their wife Draupadi on the line. After losing the bet, Duryodhana wanted to embarrass the Pandava brothers by stripping Draupadi in public, however, Lord Krishna saved her.