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Devotees must be vaccinated or Covid-19-negative and wear mask at temple's fire-walking festival rituals

SINGAPORE – All devotees must ensure they are vaccinated or show a negative Covid-19 test result, as well as wear masks at all times during this year’s fire-walking festival, Theemithi.

Participants will also be required to register in advance for the annual event, which will be held at the Sri Mariamman Temple in South Bridge Road on Oct 24.

Unvaccinated devotees must produce a negative result from a Covid-19 test taken within 24 hours of the end of their event participation, said the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) in a statement on Wednesday (Sept 22).

The act of walking barefoot across a bed of burning charcoal is a form of penance or thanksgiving to honour the Hindu goddess Sri Drowpathai Amman.

Masks must also be worn during rituals such as angapradakshanam, the act of prostration by rolling one’s body, and kumbiduthandam, the act of prostrating after walking every three steps.

HEB added that only offerings of paalkudams (milk pots) and maavilakkus (rice flour lamps) provided by the temple will be allowed, not the ones prepared by devotees themselves.

Devotees taking part in these rituals will only be allowed to go around the temple once via a designated pathway to fulfil their vow.

These activities start at the temple from Oct 1. Registration for paalkudam, angapradakshanam and kumbiduthandam starts at 10am on Friday.

Devotees can book their slots at https://heb.org.sg/firewalking2021

Registration for the Oct 24 fire-walking ritual is expected to open in the second week of October if the Covid-19 situation permits, said HEB.

Devotees crossing the fire pit will not be allowed to carry offerings such as garlands or ceremonial objects.

Female devotees, who are not allowed to fire-walk, can only go around the fire pit once to fulfil their vows.

Walk-ins will not be allowed for any of the activities. This applies to onlookers as well.

HEB said key rituals and ceremonies will be live-streamed just like last year, to reduce the crowd size at the temple. The videos will also be on the HEB’s YouTube and Facebook platforms after the events.

The temple management committee will continue to work with the authorities to comply with safe management measures, and plans may change due to increasing Covid-19 community cases, HEB said.

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