History of the Timiti Festival
The festival is celebrated in honour of Draupadi, the main character of the Mahabharata, epic. She is the wife of the five Pandava brothers. In a gambling session the Pandava brothers lost their home, country and even their wife to Duryodhana.
Not satisfied with his victory, Duryodhana wanted to further disgrace the brothers. He requested his younger brother Dushasana strip Draupadi in front of the court. She was saved by Krishna and at that moment she took a vow to only comb her hair after smearing Duryodhana's blood on it and using his femur as a comb. After the war in order to prove her purity she walked through a bed of fire and came out as fresh as a flower. In order to commemorate this event the festival is celebrated.
Celebration of the Timiti Festival
During the festival, scenes from Mahabharata are enacted by the devotees and drama troupes. They perform prayers to ‘Periyachi’ a week before the fire walking who is one of the most important deities of ‘Mariamma's’ entourage. The prayer session is held to request her blessings upon the devotees.
A grand marriage ceremony conducted between Arjuna and Draupadi. Subsequently there is an act of imitation of the sacrifice of ‘Hijra’, which was done before the Mahabharata war to ensure success to the Pandavas. The ritual does not involve human sacrifice.
Thereafter devotees offer their prayers like carrying milk pots, doing ‘Kumbiduthandam’ and ‘Angapirathatchanam’. Mariamma is given a milk bath as it is a belief that the sins of man will be washed away.
Two days before the Timiti festival, a silver chariot procession takes place to commemorate the 18-day battle which culminates in the Pandavas victory. At this juncture, Krishna agreed to be the charioteer of Arjuna.
The fire pit is prepared the night before the final day and kept red hot. Devotees begin their ritual as early as 4 am and the event ends before 11am. It is considered that if they are truly devoted to Draupadi they will walk through the fire unhurt.