The festival originated from South India in honour of Draupadi Amman, the main character in the epic tale of Mahabharata, the wife of five Pandava brothers, who ultimately lose their home, country and their wife after a gambling session with their cousin Duryodhana. This cousin wanted to further disgrace the five brothers and got his younger brother to strip Draupadi in court. However, she was saved by Krishna and took a vow to comb her hair only after smearing Duryodhana's blood on it and using a comb made out of his thigh bone.
This vow was made possible after the great Mahabharata war, and she proved her purity by walking through a bed of fire and emerging as fresh as a flower. Drama troupes and devotees still enact this epic till today. In preparation for the festival, the devotees pray to Periyachi, who is one of the most important deities of Mariamman's entourage. A grand prayer session is held to ask for her blessings upon the devotees and for protection during the festival.
Another event that takes place is a grand marriage ceremony, symbolic of the one carried out by Arjuna and Draupadi. A simulated ritual is also conducted to remember the sacrifice of Hijra to ensure success for the Pandavas. This simulated ritual however does not require a human sacrifice. Devotees then offer their prayers and carry milk pots, prostrate after every step and roll around the temple grounds.
The image of Mariamman, the goddess of disease and rain, is given a milk bath to wash the sins of man away. A silver chariot procession will take place two days before the festival to commemorate the 18-day battle culminating in the Pandavas' victory. This chariot procession will occur on the Friday and Saturday prior to Thimithi in Singapore, around the Telok Blangah and Bukit Merah areas.
The fire pit is prepared the night before the actual day and is maintained at red hot temperatures. Their ritual begins as early as 4 am and the event ends before 11am. The devotees believe that their devotion to Draupadi will allow them to emerge unscathed and most actually emerge without burns or significant harm to them.
Thimithi is usually celebrated in the months of October or November.