Fire-walking is one of the highlights during the Kataragama festival. Hindu devotees perform the act. They walk on a pile of logs which keep burning for around two hours when the embers are evenly spread out to cover an area of around three to four metres in length and about two metres in breadth.

Some tend to run or hop along but others walk leisurely to prove that their feet don’t get burnt. Often this is to fulfill a vow.

Mild or extreme forms of penance are commonly at Kataragama. It is a common sight to see devotees with silver needles piercing their cheeks and tongue. Some can be seen with a cobra made of silver foil protruding from the mouth.

There are others with small silver spears pierced through the skin in the upper portion of the body. This is in addition to small hooks. Another form of penance is walking on nail hooks.

A not so common sight is a pilgrim hanging on a tall scaffold with eight hooks. The scaffold is made of iron poles and fixed in the shape of two triangles, one placed on top of the other so as to form a diagram of Skanda.


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