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The Lairai Mandir

The Lairai Mandir in Sirgao displays a combination of the northern and southern styles of art and temple design. The Shirgao Jatra is famous among devotees and tourists alike for the celebrated walk on hot coals raked from an enormous bonfire.

The Jatra takes place in early part of May, when thousands of devotees of Devi Lairai descend on the small town and religious rituals and poojas dedicated to the Goddess are performed throughout the auspicious day.

Hundreds of people from the villages in surrounding areas also take part in these celebrations. Groups of these villagers from villages such as Maulingem, arrive in the early morning hours and participate in events throughout the day.

Late into the night, as midnight approaches, the devotees perform a frantic dance inside the temple which is all lit up for the occasion. The dancing takes place to the rhythm of drum beats, in a tight circle in front of Goddess Lairai. While chanting and moving in a tight circle the devotees hold the special sticks clashing them against one another.

The circular dance reaches a feverish high with a single drum beat denoting the end of each dance session. The dance sessions end around midnight when all eyes are on the huge pile of wood kept in a large clearing near the temple. The final and most spectacular part of the Jatra then begins, when a specially chosen person races from the temple to the wooden pile and lights a massive bonfire with a blazing torch.

In the early hours of the morning when the fire has died down, the raking of the coals begins. The devotees await their turn to walk on the holy path of hot coals. Around 4 am, the actual ritual starts, with the devotees running through the hot coals carrying their sticks and shouting the name of Devi Lairai.

As the crowd watches in stunned silence, some devotees do the 'hot run' once, others do it several times. Those who have finished their run, then remove and throw their flower garlands onto a nearby Banyan tree and return home. The Jatra reaches its conclusion as the sun rises in the distant hills.