Shri Jasnath Asan, Rajasthan, India
Photo © Shri Jasnath Asan, 2016
11 NOV 2016
We traveled about 20km to the next village to attend the first Fire Dance of the season. An amazing, mesmerizing 5 hour event. We arrived a little after 6 pm and found the place was already full of a crowd of people. A very large colorful tent set up with the central portion open to the sky. The floor was covered with large fabric tarps for seating with the central area under the open sky left as bare ground.
The women were dancing outside near another canopy. The driving beat of drums and percussion accompanied them as they danced in stunning, beautiful, colorful dresses. Time disappeared as the drums took over. I’m not sure how long they danced but they ended as the crowd gathered around Guru and paid their respects.
We moved into the big tent. Soon more drumming and chanting took over the room as the room was cleansed. A mound of logs was prepared then set ablaze. Singing, chanting and percussion continued as the wood was consumed. In 3-hours-time the wood would be reduced to hot glowing coals and the fire dance would begin. While the logs burned we moved back over to the house for a delicious dinner cooked in an outdoor kitchen over a wood fire.
Moving back into the tent, after dinner, we waited till the fire had transformed the wood to embers. Larger chunks of wood were removed and a small bed of coals carefully prepared. The fire dances began dancing clockwise around the fire spinning as they danced like the whirling dervishes of the region.
At the beginning of the dance, the drum beats were slow and dancing slow but with the passage of time the drum beats and chanting got faster, driving the dancers to match the pounding rhythm. The intensity of the dancing matched the intensity of the glowing embers and they began dancing through the hot coals. The fire dancers would reach to the ground and pick up glowing coals, pop them in their mouth then holding them with their teeth they would puff out bursts of air creating showers of sparks. As the dramatic dancing reached its peak they kicked the pile of coals with their feet or scooped them with their hands the pile of coals to spread them in great showers of sparks and glowing embers across the bare ground of the dancing circle.
It was a night I will not soon forget.
Panchla Siddha, India
Sharon K. Schafer
I paint, photograph, and speak about wild places in an act of reciprocity that is as vital to me as heartbeat or breath.
My interest in the magic and mystery of the natural world lies at the intersection of art and science.
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