Udappu fishing village, Chilaw District, Sri Lanka

Building an Inferno

Building an Inferno

All the while, before the temple, more and more tamarind logs fed the greedy flames. Sometimes the fire-builders caused the inferno to flare up by flinging on a mixture of coconut oil, ghee and camphor. To even out the burn, they prodded and levered the flaming logs with long staves of tamarind.

The temple bells began to toll. The drumming from within the temple grew louder as the drummers emerged, led by flag bearers and torchbearers, and followed by devotees.

The statue of the goddess Draupadi, sheltered by an umbrella, was carried out and placed on a brightly painted litter hung with tinsel and fixed with coloured lights that waited before the temple.

It was flanked by two more statues, one placed on a hooded snake figure and the other on a mongoose.

Devotees lifted the litters bearing the three statues—about 25 men to a litter—and carried them in procession round the temple.