Friday, October 17, 2014

My photography account at the recent Fire Walking Festival 2014

We arrange to meet at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple at around 5.30pm on the 12 Oct 2014 (Sun). Suki brought me into temple. Hindu devotees queueing up to take ritual bath before they start their walk to Sri Mariamman Temple which is where the fire walking ritual will be taking place.

As the blue hour sets in, we waited patiently at the gate of the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple. Firing many test shots to ensure we have good exposure and good coverage of the devotees marching out of the gate. It is going to happen very quickly and there was absolutely no second take. Barriers were raised to ensure the crowd were kept a distance away from the devotees when they march out of the temple gate.

Finally, after much delay, the time had arrived, the gate slide open, and devotees came out in batches. The priest was carrying a pot decorated with flowers (this is what it look like from my standing spot) on his head. There were a few devotees carrying swords.

Everything seems to be moving fast. It was time for us to get out of this location. I swiftly headed for the Farrer Park MRT to board a train down to Chinatown MRT. I expected a short walk toward Sri Mariamman Temple however it turned out to be much longer. It was so crowded that I needed to start pushing my way through. My objective was to reach the main entrance of the temple along South Bridge Road. Unfortunately everywhere was blocked. It seems almost impossible to reach the main entrance. I met Sam Chong and his friend. He told me that it was jammed up with people inside the temple.

At that instance, I found an alley cutting across to Temple Street. Finally, I reached Temple Street. The road capacity of South Bridge Road near the temple entrance was reduced by 50%. I managed to reach the opposite side of the road so that I can photograph the devotees who were still walking down from Sri Srinivasa Perumal temple.  Finally Suki came. We managed to queue up to get into the temple. Some guys were trying to push their way through the crowd into the temple. With Suki around, it is quite unlikely they will get pass him.

The temple crowd management staffs allow batches of visitors into the temple. Inside the temple, Indian music was played by a small group of musicians. The music was repetitive. We moved along a narrow lane with metal barriers on both sides. The staffs were getting us to move faster. I stopped to photograph the fire walkers who were running across the pit. At the end of the pit, there was a pool of water to cool down their burning feet. At least five guys at the cooling pool were there to help the devotees in case someone slipped and fell onto the burning pit. I just cannot imagine the burns suffered by the bare body devotee.

The night seems to be rather warm. The burning pit may have contributed to the heat inside the temple. We went for a second round walk around the pit. At the end, we ended up on the second floor of the temple. At high vantage point, with my fisheye lens, I was able to capture the overall view of the fire walking activities. Devotees prayed before they walk over the pit. There were a few Chinese looking men who took up this fire walking ritual.

Finally, we came out of the temple feeling great to have captured some nice shots. With Suki connection, we ended up inside the air-condition mobile container which was a resting place for doctors and nurses. At the side of the temple, there were ambulances and medical personnel ready to treat the burned devotees. From their conversation, one Chinese devotee fell and burned himself. They treated him and he took his own transport to the hospital.

It was my first experience photographing fire walking and I hope this blog will help to share my experience.

All photos are copyrights of Derrick See ( Seed Image ). No photos are to be copied or published without the permission of the photographer. 

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