(5 to 14 October 2003)

Nicola Goodhead &
Nicola Godfrey - UK

We are the two Nikkis. We arrived in Singapore on 8 October on the first stage of our travels. After 3 years of University writing and researching essays, we still couldn't say no when Ping asked us to research and write a report on the hostel trip out to the Thimidhi Festival being held in the early morning of 13 October. So late on 12 October, after a big night out to Coyote Ugly the night before with a group of people from the hostel, we met to brief the group of about 20 people about this important festival.

The Thimidhi festival is the primary celebration in the run-up to Divali. Divali, or Deepavali, is the most important celebration in the Hindu calendar. The festival occurs over 5 days. However, as Thimidhi shows, the preparations leading up to it are also amazing. Divali means "Festival of Lights" and signifies the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness. Hindus lights lamps, "deeps" inside and outside their houses, these are clay bowls filled with oil and a lit wick, they are symbols of knowledge. These are sold in the Festival Village which is set up at this time just at the end of Campbell Lane, a 20 second walk from the hostel. This bazaar also sells food, sari's and henna painting and has a fantastic atmosphere throughout the day and night. Little India is amazing at this time, Serangoon Road has hundreds of lights over it to celebrate Divali.

Thimidhi means fire walking and the festival begins at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple on Serangoon Road in Little India. This is where the devotees of the Hindu faith take their ritual bath. We were allowed inside the temple, there were people playing music, singing and chanting. We watched as they washed themselves completely in water to cleanse in preparation for the fire walking, all dressed in orange sarongs. Then they all gathered inside the actual temple and began to chant. As they emerge, the procession into Chinatown begins. It is suprising how many followers there are, the length of the procession is amazing and goes much further than the eye can see. There were also hundreds of spectators, following the procession. We were the only Westerners we saw, we felt slightly like we were imposing on their ritual but everyone was welcoming so we were really glad we could be there to see this event.

Once at the temple in Chinatown, the Sri Mariamman Temple which is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, each follower must cross a 4 metre bed of burning coal barefoot. They do this to honour the Goddess Draupadi who in the Indian epic Mahabharta, proved her innocence by walking bare-footed on burning coals. Once at the temple we were allowed in, but we only caught a brief glimpse as each person is ushered through quickly.

This all took place between 1 and 4 am, and it was still continuing when we left. It was a long walk and a late night but definitely worth it.

In the evening of 13 October, the fire-walking festival ends with a grand Silver Chariot Procession to mark the victory of the Goddess Draupadi. People gather on the Serangoon Road to see the decorated chariot and offer gifts to the Goddess.

As someone who has had little experience of religious festivals I found this quite amazing and a totally different but enjoyable experience. (Nikki Godfrey)

I too thought the festival was beautiful and the atmosphere fantastic. I'm really glad that we were here at the right time, and staying in the right place because it was thanks to Ping and Hai that we knew about this event and saw all of it. (Nikki Goodhead)

Roman among the Roses.

Empress Place.

Rendezvous with the Satay Man.

Group Outing for Thimithi (also spelt Thimidhi)

Outside the Sri Srinivasan Perumal Temple.

Beat those Drums!

Start of the Procession.

The Walk down Serangoon Road.

The Endless Procession.

Under the Twinkling Lights.


Crowd outside Sri Mariamman Temple.

Bed of Burning Hot Coal.

Urg, didn't get to take one with a devotee walking across!

Splash at the End.

Preparing the Offerings.

Announcing the Arrival of the Silver Chariot.

The Silver Chariot.

Reaching out for the Fire.

Bazaar at Campbell Lane.

Ping with Henrik, Erik & Charlie.

L-R: Larissa, Makoto, Kiran & Amit.

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