Behind the Belief: A Buddhist firewalker in Singapore

Behind the Belief – Buddhist Sean Gian, 29, prepares to take part in a firewalking ritual alongside thousands of Hindus in the lead-up to Deepavali. PHOTO: Nurul Amirah/Yahoo News Singapore

How much do you know about the diversity of faiths in Singapore? In a new series, Yahoo News Singapore explores the lesser-known rituals and branches of religions in the country.

Firewalking, an act of penance or thanksgiving, is a ritual typically associated with the Hindu faith. Held 10 days before Deepavali, or the Festival of Lights, it sees devotees walking barefoot across a bed of four to five layers of burnt wood or coal.

This year, it is estimated that almost 4,000 devotees in Singapore took part in the ritual starting on Sunday night (8 October) and ending in the wee hours of Monday.

But the annual ritual also attracts its fair share of non-Hindus. One of them was sushi chef Sean Gian, 29, who was participating in the ritual for the sixth time.

Video by Nurul Amirah

Gian told Yahoo News Singapore  that he started out by helping out his Hindu friends with crowd management while they took part in the ritual. It wasn’t long before he joined in, drawn by his group of friends.

“(People) ask me and they were surprised, then I say, because these boys, all these boys, are more like family to me,” said Gian, who added that he is very close to his Hindu friends and attends Hindu festivals like Thaipusam with them every year.

This year, Gian also helped a fellow Buddhist friend who wanted to take part in the ritual after seeing Gian’s Facebook post on firewalking last year.

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