Rukmani Sathyapama Sametha Sri Paarthasaarathy Thiraupathathevi Devasthanam, Udappu
By Dushiyanthini Kanagasbapathipillai
“Neither fire nor wind, birth nor death can erase our good deeds” ~Buddha Quotes (Hindu Prince Gauthama Siddhartha, The Founder of Buddhism, 563-483B.C)
Much awaited annual fire walking of Rukmani Sathyapama Sametha Sri Paarthasaarathy Thiraupathathevi Devasthanam’s was held on 5th of August 2009 at night. It was a windy day in Udappu throughout the day.
“Goddess Thiraupathai Amman is here to bless us” said some villagers referring to the unusual wind. The fire walking fell on a full moon day, which is a rare occasion according to the villagers of Udappu.
Since it was a public holiday in Sri Lanka more devotees attended the ceremony.2,000 male devotees participated in the annual fire walking of 2009. The annual festival began on 18th of July 2009. Te annual festival of Rukmani Sathyapama Sametha Sri Paarthasaarathy Thiraupathathevi Devasthanam is also known as “Aadi Vizha Mahotsavam”.
Udappu is situated in between Chilaw and Puttlam, 150kilometers away from Colombo. This small village falls under North-Western Province. It is a fishing village, which has 15,000 people as its population. Udappu is situated 6 kilometers off Colombo-Puttlam main road. Small sandy road leads to the Rukmani Sathyapama Sametha Sri Paarthasaarathy Thiraupathathevi Devasthanam.
The Kopuram or the main tower of the Rukmani Sathyapama Sametha Sri Paarthasaarathy Thiraupathathevi Devasthanam is visible from this small sandy road. The Kopuram or main tower of of Rukmani Sathyapama Sametha Sri Paarthasaarathy Thiraupathathevi Devasthanam is being built, which is currently covered with cadjan leaves. Udappu is a very calm and quiet village. People quickly appear from nowhere to take part in the festival and disappear at the same speed.
This particular village has a deep sense of tradition and rituals. The people of Udappu believe and follow the epic Mahabharatham. The epic Mahabharatham is read during the annual festival, and certain parts of Mahabharatham is performed as a form of drama or dance to make the people understand it better.
There are five elements in Hinduism. They are known as “Impootham” or five elements, which are earth, water, fire, sky and air. According to Vedas, God exists in these five primary elements. Animals, birds and human beings need all these five elements to live.
Muthiah Paranthaman Poosagar dances around the fire pit while carrying a hot clay pot of Moola Thee or the First Fire. He is the Chief Priest of Sri Veerapaththirakaali Amman Temple in Udappu, which is situated a few kilometers away from the Rukmani Sathyapama Sametha Sri Paarthasaarathy Thiraupathathevi Devasthanam. He comes and stays near the of Rukmani Sathyapama Sametha Sri Paarthasaarathy Thiraupathathevi Devasthanam during it’s annual festival time, which lasts for 18 days.
He heads the main ceremony throughout these 18 days. Muthiah Paranthaaman Poosagar also takes part in singing Bajans along with the other devotees and recites the Mahabharatham. He does not come from a Brahmin family, but it has been a tradition that non-Brahmin, Pandaaram carries out certain rituals in Udappu. They do not wear “Poo Nool” which is a white colour thread blessed and worn from shoulder to hip like the usual Brahmin priest.
Some of the Pandaaram performs poojas and other religious rituals.
The preparation for the fire pit begins a before the fire walking with several rituals being carried out. At dawn of the fire walking day, special pooja is held in the Rukmani Sathyapama Sametha Sri Paarthasaarathy Thiraupathathevi Devasthanam and the Moola Thee or the First Fire is brought while the sun rises to the fire pit and kept there. As soon as this ritual is over, men rush to the logs of Tamarind wood, and bring them on their shoulders, and arrange them in the fire pit.
30 Tractor loads of Tamarind wood was brought for this years’ fire walking according to the President of the Rukmani Sathyapama Sametha Sri Paarthasaarathy Thiraupathathevi Devasthanam Shakthivel Malarchelvan. Many bottles of pure Ghee is poured into the pit and between the logs to spread the fire equally. Pure Ghee is poured till the fire is set to orange colour. The men keep watching the fire pit and adjust the firewood accordingly. With the sunset the men begin to take the unburnt logs away. Water is continuously poured on the men who are very close to the fire. Men began to make the bed of fire ready for walking. The bed of fire was ready at 8.30pm after many hours of hard work.
A special pooja was performed by the Chief Priest of Rukmani Sathyapama Sametha Sri Paarthasaarathy Thiraupathathevi Devasthanam Brahmasri Pathma Jeyaram Kurukkal. The deities were decorated with fresh flowers and kept in the Vasantha Mandapam or ceremonial hall. The deities of Rukmani Sathyapama Sametha Sri Paarthasaarathy Thiraupathathevi , Lord Vinayagar, Lord Murugan, and Goddess Thiraupathathevi were taken on a colorful procession inside and outside the temple. All the deities are kept in a row in front of the fire pit at the main entrance of the temple. Rukmani Sathyapama Sametha Sri Paarthasaarathy Thiraupathathevi Devasthanam was kept open throughout the festival days.
Devotees both men and women keep chanting “Arohara”, “Govintha” and “Narayana” during every ritual is performed. The traditional drums such as Thavil and Nathaswaram continue to play. The devotees observe fast and have only vegetarian meals during the festival time. It’s a tradition to sit on the ground to watch the rituals.
A silver pot of Karagam was taken from the Rukmani Sathyapama Sametha Sri Paarthasaarathy Thiraupathathevi Devasthanam to the Sri Maha Muththu Maariyamman Devasthaanam in Aandimunai, and brought back by Muthiah Paranthaaman Poosagar. He dances while carrying the Karagam on his head. He straight away walks on the bed of fire followed by the rest of the devotees.
Devotees chant “Arohara” when the men walk across the fire. They encourage the rest of the devotees to chant the same. Some devotees carry their children on their heads or shoulder, while crossing the fire. They believe that they walk on a stretch of hair belongs to Goddess Thiraupathathevi. The ceremony is popularly known as “Poo Mithippu” or flower walking. Devotees stayed in the compound of the Rukmani Sathyapama Sametha Sri Paarthasaarathy Thiraupathathevi Devasthanam after the fire walking till late night.