The Fire Dancers at the Bikaner Festival 2009

Fire Dancers at the Bikaner Festival in Rajasthan in January 2009
Fire Dancers at the Bikaner Festival in Rajasthan in January 2009

I was lucky to have been in Bikaner to witness their annual camel festival held from January 10-12 this year. One of the most fascinating events was the fire dance performed by members of the Siddh who are known to have a special vardaan or divine powers to be able to walk and dance of burning wood and coal. See all the images on Flickr.

There was a group of these people who danced around a fire for over half an hour, and would take turns to walk over the embers. Of course they would do it quickly and hit the dusty ground immediately to try cool their feet. But there was no trick here: they were clearly barefoot – you and I would not be able to do this.

A few of them also took burning pieces in their mouth and let out sparks. WOW. And it was all so surreal in the setting: It was past 10 at night, in a desert with a full moon. Beat that.

Some images are given below, or you can go to Flickr to see all.

A man letting out sparks after taking in some burning wood
A man letting out sparks after taking in some burning wood
Lighting the fire to get started
Lighting the fire to get started

Dancing around the fire
Dancing around the fire
Spreading the embers with their feet at the end to send some of these flying towards the spectators too
Spreading the embers with their feet at the end to send some of these flying towards the spectators too

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6 COMMENTS

  1. I got this from Deepa, a contact on Live Journal:

    How does it actually work?
    • Firewalkers use the weird physics of the coals.
    • The fire is lit well ahead of time to allow the wood to burn down to non-flaming coals. This lightweight carbon structure of coal is a poor conductor of heat. It takes a relatively long time for heat to transfer from the glowing coal to your skin. Now, add to that the fact that ash is a very good insulator.
    • The event is always held at night. If it were done during daylight, the bed of coals would look instead like a bed of ashes. There is always a layer of ash covering the coals. By doing it at night, the glowing red light is still visible through this layer of ash.
    • The firewalker walks briskly on the coals. If you were to stand still on the coals for several seconds, you would definitely get a burn. By walking quickly, you keep your contact with individual coals very short. So, your foot never gets hot enough to burn.

    Nevertheless don’t try this at home.

  2. special thanks to mr (dear) ajay for excellent coverage on different aspect of fire dance. the dance in unique but the eye behind the sceen is not less important who is bringing all this dreams befores us. the quality of photographs is par excellence. i shall be sharing you in this festival organised on eve of new yr. at lodera-bikaner. my eyes will search ajay jain ji there.
    regards.
    natwar tripathi
    mob. 9460364940

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