Ceremonial highlight: Sunning of the thangka - a giant canvas painting of Buddha - to 'draw power'. - Photo: Yoon Lai Wan
A reader shares her experience observing a unique Buddhist ceremony in a small town in Perak.
WHAT is synonymous with the word Tambun? No doubt it is pomeloes, the sweet, juicy canonball-like citrus fruit which is a hot favourite with locals and tourists. But do you know that there is more to the place than just pomeloes?
This small town, Tambun, which lies in the heart of Kinta Valley, Perak, offers a voyage of discovery. Bubbling hot springs, majestic outcrops of limestone hills, mysterious cave shelters with pre-historic drawings, enchanting cave temples, and fruit orchards are some of the attractions accessible to anyone who loves the outdoors.
Fancy visiting a resplendent Buddhist temple that is vibrant yet steeped in Tibetan tradition? Away from the main road and surrounded by pomelo orchards lies this hidden wonder. Built in 1975, the Enlighten Heart Tibetan Buddhist Temple – better known as Jingan Jing She by locals – has great potential to be a tourist attraction.
Nestled at the foot of Ipoh’s impressive stretch of rolling green hills, this monastery exudes a calm and tranquil atmosphere. With a touch of Tibetan culture, prayer wheels are installed along a covered passageway for devotees to spin for blessings. A 13-storey Medicine Buddha pagoda, housing an enormous Sakyamuni Buddha, can be viewed in the compound too. Every floor of this pagoda is decorated with statues, deities and paintings depicting the rich mythology of Buddhism. Do climb right up to the pinnacle, for you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of the Kinta Valley.
During Wesak Day and the annual Medicine Buddha Puja which falls in November, hundreds or perhaps thousands of devotees, curious on-lookers and shutterbugs are attracted to this place like moths to a flame. For those who fancy seeing the action on Wesak Day, be here by 8am as it is a bumper-to-bumper crawl after that. It is located near the Tambun police station, so look for the signboard and follow the narrow and dusty path for about 1km to the monastery.
I am not a Buddhist but for the past two years, I have been a regular, or rather a nosey parker, during this religious festival rich in Tibetan culture. The procession around the monastery is unique, with devotees carrying statues of deities, and monks chanting sutras (hymns) and blowing horns can be seen entering an immense “dragon mouth” and exiting at the tail-end.
Performances by masked dances in elaborate costumes are not to be missed. This ritual dance, known as Cham, is accompanied by music played by monks using traditional Tibetan instruments. It is performed in the courtyard, and it is amusing to see the photographers chasing after them in order to get good shots. A word of caution for the faint-hearted: do not stare at the “scary” mask as you may end up seeing “stars”.
The highlight during this occasion is the unfurling of the thangka, a giant canvas painting of Buddha. This takes place just before noon whereby devotees carry out the 60m by 12m canvas and sun it in the compound for 30 minutes to “draw power”. Devotees would run under the canvas to receive blessings from Buddha, and photographers have a field day taking shots of that fleeting moment which happens only once a year.
Come next year’s ceremony, don your trainers, lug your camera and visit this Tibetan temple. This is something that can only be fully appreciated when experienced in real life.