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Joeli ready to walk on fire

June 21
12:00 2008

Written By : MARAEA WAQALEVU. A Fijian boy would be among a number of religious devotees taking part in a fire walking ceremony at the Mahakali Mata Mandir in Nepani this morning.
Known to his friends as Joeli Sivam Kumar, the young boy has been taking part in the religious celebrations since he was five.
When approached by the Fiji Sun yesterday, he was busy helping fellow devotees erect sheds and making sure the surroundings of the mandir was spick and span.
“I’ve been doing this since I was five and every year it feels like its something new to look forward to,” Joeli said.
He said his whole family understood his passion and love for the fire walking ceremony and respected his wishes to take part each year.
He said he had been fasting for the past few days and only occasionally ate fruits which were also fed to the Gods.
“Part of the preparation towards the big ceremony on Sunday is the fasting so you can mentally and physically prepare yourself for the task ahead.
“I maintained my fasting and the only thing I ate was apples and my fast will break after the big ceremony when we thereafter will delight ourselves in a variety of delicacies,” said the young boy.
Joeli said gone were the days when he was scared out of his wits when the big day approached.
“I used to be so afraid and often asked myself whether all will be well or not.
“I guess I was just a young boy then, but now many years later, I actually look forward to the event.
“Now, I’m just psyched to do the whole thing because I know by the end of the day, my whole being is cleansed,” said the young boy.
The priest at the mandir, Poojari Rakesh Chand Sharma said about 180 people would take part in the religious ceremony with the celebrations beginning today.
“We have worshipers and devotees from right around that will be taking part in the ceremony and many are looking forward to the once in a year celebrations,” Poojari Sharma said.
He said the men burnt the logs from Friday which would be ready for the ceremony at 5am this morning.
“This is the ritual every year. The burning of the logs begins on the Friday, and then we’re ready for the walk on Sunday.
“And by that time all devotees taking part will be physically, spiritually and mentally ready to take up the task,” Poojari Sharma said.
While preparing for the ceremony, the place of worship is kept strictly restricted and women aren’t allowed to enter the sacred place until the actual ceremony begins.
“We have to restrict entry to the place of worship as it has been prepared for the big day and only those allowed to enter will go through,” said the high priest.
The priest said the worshippers had stayed in the temple and fasted for 10 days.
And yesterday was the final day and they had to march from house to house asking for food to end their fast.
In the process, the devotees displayed their faith publicly by piercing needles and pins on parts of their bodies.
“This is to publicly show their faith and devotion” Poojari Sharma said.
“They have been preparing themselves spiritually and this is a test of their faith.”
He said the devotees during the 10 days were not allowed out of the temple area and access to food. They also abstain from sex. They wear red or yellow clothes made of natural fibres only.
He said Hindu fire-walking was a mean to become one with the universe.
“The mental preparation of the rites helps to achieve a balanced and spiritually evolved life,’’ he said.
“And those with health problems are usually encouraged to join the ritual and get spiritual healing from the Hindu gods.”

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