Firewalking is one of the oldest and undoubtedly most spectacular Tamil rituals in Reunion Island. This ceremony is open to the public but you must be respectful and discreet if you take part. Impressive and painful in equal measures, it celebrates the purity of the Hindu goddess Draupadi, who crossed a field of coals getting burnt to prove her virginity to her future husband.
The ceremony generally takes place at the start of the year and devotees test their faith by proving that their mind is stronger than their body. After 17 days of eating only vegan food and a long procession through water, it is a profound and mystical experience for participants and an impressive spectacle for observers.
When we arrive we realise that the public has a part to play in the ritual. The Thimithi is a kind of communion, a challenge which has to be shared. The beating drums, the shouting and the dance of vibrant colours gradually give way to a strange trance-like sensation. The experience is intoxicating for the senses and totally fascinating as the faithful devotees calmly cross the coals in bare feet. Sometimes there are rituals at the end of this enthralling Tamil ceremony in Reunion Island.