Weird and Wonderful. Posted on May 24, 2012 by Svaroopa Vidya Ashram

India is notorious for surprising visitors with the unexpected, the weird, and the wonderful. This trip was no exception, with plenty of the above mentioned in happy, balanced quantities. Swamiji went to great lengths to counsel each of us and help us cope with jet-lag, tour guidance, and culture shock, so it all went really smoothly. The staff at the hotel cared for us as family members, taking us around town and to nearby attractions safely and in comfort.

A personal highlight was watching the fire walk done in the nearby village of Kovalam. It happens every year with an auspicious moon, and it was our great luck to be there on that day. A large group of about 200 men and boys, some of whom seemed no older than 8 or so, prepared themselves for weeks to enter an altered state whereby they would be able to walk over red-hot coals without burning themselves… and they did so before our very eyes. It is done to gain favors from God and/or pay for wrong doings; women never do it, only gents.

We watched, mesmerized, how they prayed as they dressed and decorated themselves at the Kali Temple and then went a few blocks away to an outdoor auditorium where the coals were ready. They jogged through the streets to the beat of some drums and other instruments yelling “Jai Jai” in unison..

Then, in complete awe, we watched among an audience of several thousand people as one after the other danced over the coals to the other side, then walked back and went over the coals again and again. Our cameras were snapping photos as fast as the eye could cope, trying to catch as many shots as possible of temple, walkers, audience, and the place itself, which was full of vendors of all sorts.

It took a few days to wash the excitement out of my heart from that weird, wonderful, and unexpected glimpse of India’s soul. Sometimes I wonder if it ever will wash away completely…


Laura Marshall

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