Viewing the Beauty of the Fiery Sparks
Many people from across different countries show keen interest in knowing more about the Japanese way of living, the traditions and the rituals observed by the conservative society. While the Japanese religious traits can starkly differ from that of the Christians, folks who try to invade the cultural fringes of the island-country will be partly or completely taken aback by the bizarre rituals observed by the natives. So, what is this “Omitzutori” festival all about? Considered one of the most important annual celebrations by Buddhist followers, the festival is generally conducted at the holy Todaji Temple of Nara. I had once been to Japan and had eventually experienced the brightness of the event.
Encompassing a chain of rituals pertaining to Buddhist ways of repentance, the Omizutori festival has been in existence for as long as 1250 years, or even more than that. Considered one of the earliest of events practiced in the Japanese grounds, the Omitzutori is also considered the Sacred Water-Drawing Festival. As I was being told by one of the Japanese natives, the ceremony is said to be a part of the Shuni-e celebrations.
The celebrations demand a priest to wake up at early morning hours and fetch water from a particular well that majestically lies beneath a Temple Hall. This water bears significance in the Japanese culture because it is said to flow once in a year and is considered holy for its pure properties. Natives here believe that this water is gifted by none other than God. It is said that once the holy water had sprung up from beneath the ground right at the feet of God.
So, what seems to draw attention of the thousands of Japanese natives and that of the tourists who participate in the ceremony? They say that “water drawing” is a secondary reason for attending the festive mood; actually people are interested in viewing the fiery curtain sparkling all the way. In fact I was quite skeptical of being a part of the crowd because the fiery sparks had apparently generated a sense of fear; but then I was so engrossed with the event that I had hardly experienced fear.
I had noticed that just as the sunset neared, monks gathered at the balcony holding fire torches. The crowd viewing the lights generally remained awestruck at the spark s generated from the torches. With the torches burning, the fiery sparks started falling right where the crowd had gathered. A participant had once told me that the ritual usually symbolises a safe and healthy year ahead for onlookers.
Years have passed and the Omizutori festival is still reigning over the Japanese traditions. Every year people return at the same place to catch a glimpse of the fiery beauty promising them a healthy and safe life. This part of the Omizutori festival is called Otaimatsu and the duration of the celebration tends to vary per day. The duration of the light tends to vary with the size of the torches used.
You can learn more about the surprising Japanese rituals observed by the people from a blog about Japan.