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Goa Tourism Development Corporation
A Government of Goa Undertaking

Shrigao Zatra

One of the most looked forward events in the Hindu calendar of religious festivities is the fire walking held at Shirgao, near Assanora in the Bicholim Taluka. This festival is in celebration of the deity Sri Lairaie. Throughout the year this village lies in tranquillity, with its regular visitors to the temple and the transitory mining trucks; however, in the month of May this village transforms itself into a hub of hyper activity. Thousands of visitors descend on this village to take part in the annual fire walking ritual. The devotees of this temple, who are tradionaly Fire Walkers, are called as “DHOND’s” and comprise of gents as well as ladies. They are easily identified by the dhoti with a towel wrapped around their waist and the colourfully woven cane stick called as “Ven’th” that they carry. The cane is a 6ft long, woven cane, leaving a curve at one end and interspersed by colourful bunches of wool. These Dhond’s carry out very strict procedures in their daily duties. They remain vegetarian for 40 days; after every meal, they bath to purify themselves. On the previous day of the event, a huge wooden pyre is created from dried wooden barks & timber. The base is square about 10 ft whilst the top is conical. Many of the devotees contribute towards the creation of this pyre by bringing and contributing wood. The Dhond’s circumambulate around this pyre through out the day for a fixed number of times and then they retire to the temple. At the temple these Dhonds dance frenziedly and the sound made by the cane sticks can be heard very resolutely over the chants & beats. At the given time, just around midnight, the deity is taken to a shrine away from the main temple and passing the high wooden pyre. A small flame is thrown into this pyre and the procession proceeds to the shrine. At this time, there are more than 10,000 Dhond’s waiting for this momentous time. By 2.30 – 3.00 AM, the huge pyre is reduced to cinders and the red hot coals are spread out by volunteers. At the designated time, the Dhonds start running through these hot embers – bare feet.