Like Kavadee and Sword-Climbing, Theemithi (Fire-Walking) is observed by Tamil Hindus and is characterised by rigorous fasting and penance. It is observed
by the very young as well as by the very old, by men as well as by women.
The festival is generally held in December and January. The month and the date are fixed according to the Tamil calendar in consultation with the
officiating priest of the temple. Sometimes a few ‘temple-regions’ may hold it in March or some other month. This is for the sake of keeping continuity with a regional practice that has become well-established.
Ten days preceding the festival, a flag-hoisting ceremony (‘kodi-etram’) is held in the temple. For this purpose a flag depicting a lion (‘singam’) is
raised on the flag-post (‘kodi maram’) amidst chanting, recitation of prayers and shouts of ‘arogara’ (Hail to God or to Amman). The flag is then worshipped with offerings of sandalwood, coconut, fruit and burning
of camphor, with devotees all the while reading appropriate verses from sacred books. The presiding deity of the temple can be one of the forms of ‘Amman’ (the Mother) — Kaali Amman, Maari Amman, Draupadee Amman, or
Durga Amman — after whom the temple has been named. The ‘Amman~ is ceremoniously bathed and lavishly adorned. Devotional songs are intoned praising the various attributes of the Mother. Devotees throng to recite the
‘maari amman thaalaatu’ or the ‘lullaby song of the Mother’. Discourses are held to explain the meaning, significance and attributes of the Mother. ‘Prasadam’ (consecrated offerings)
The ‘kodi-étram’ signifies the start of a ten-day fast and prayers for all who take part in the ‘theemithi’ ceremony. Every evening devotees and members of
their family gather at the temple to pray and to chant the glory of the ‘Amman’. During this period the penitent submits himself to a rigorous regime abstaining from fish, fowl meat, alcohol, cigarettes and other
sensual gratifications. He sleeps on a mat spread on the floor at home. In this manner the penitent is purged of impurities. The removal of passion and desire
helps him attain ‘one-pointedness’. Either theofficiating priest or someone competent is called upon to read from the ‘Mahabaratham’, the sacred Hindu epic.
The appropriate chapter,‘Arjuna’s Penance’ (Arjuna’s thavam) is recited. Nowadays this is being replaced by devotional group singing by younger devotees.