Hundreds of devotees walk barefoot over bed of hot embers in Indian festival

A three-day Hindu festival held in north India saw worshippers pierce their flesh and walk on hot coals to celebrate a goddess revered by South Indians living away from home.

The Mother Mariamma Mela festival took place in Jalandhar, Punjab state and ran from May 11 to May 13, being organised by the South Indian Welfare Society to celebrate the Tamil goddess Mari or Maariamman.

Also known as as Mother Mari or Mariaai, she is the goddess of rain especially popular in regions of Tamil Nadu in the south of India.

During the fair, hundreds of devotees walk over a bed of hot embers. The burning coal is kept in a pit about 30-feet long and 3-feet wide and people walk over it barefoot as a mark of worship.

According to many popular beliefs, the goddess is also said to be an incarnation of Goddess Kali. Festivals honouring Mother Mariamma are held during the summer/early autumn season of "Aadi".

Along with bringing rains, people also worship this goddess for curing diseases like cholera, smallpox and chicken pox.