Scaled-down festival this year

This year’s Nine Emperor Gods Festival will be missing the parade and public ceremony to receive the deity at Kinta River.

ACTIVITIES for this year’s Nine Emperor Gods Festival will be kept to a minimum, with only simple prayers allowed to be conducted at the Tow Boo Keong Temple in Ipoh.

Temple committee secretary Too Joon Nam said there would be no public ceremonies to receive the “deities” at the Kinta River nor any parade that used to be the norm during the festival in past years.

“In about 100 years of celebration, this is the first time we have to keep things simple.

“There will not be any walking over burning charcoal or bridge-crossing purification rituals, ” he said when met.

“With the rising number of Covid-19 cases nationwide, we want to ensure that we do not make the situation worse.

“We want to deter people from crowding at the temple, so we will have to minimise our activities.

“We sincerely hope that the people will understand and cooperate with us, ” he added.

The Nine Emperor Gods Festival is observed by the Taoist community.

It will start today and end on Oct 25.

The festival is held on the first day of the ninth lunar month and pays homage to the Goddess of the North Star, believed to control the “Books of Life and Death”.

Too said any ceremony held at the temple this year would not be opened to the public.

He said members of the public could still perform simple prayers at the temple but they would have to strictly adhere to the standard operating procedures (SOP).

“Those coming to the temple will need to have their temperature checked, wear a face mask and check in using the MySejahtera app or record their details in the logbook provided at the premises.

“Visitors must also ensure that they keep at least a metre distance from one another when queuing up to enter the temple, ” he said.

He added that the number of people allowed into the premises would be controlled.

Devotees, said Too, would be asked to dispose of the joss sticks at a designated area once they were done praying, instead of the regular practice of planting the joss sticks at the altar urns.

“Devotees are not allowed to bring any offerings.

“They are also prohibited from taking photographs or videos at the temple, ” he added.

The long row of tortoise bun stalls normally set up right outside the temple, are notably missing this year.

In explaining this, Too said the temple did not rent out space to any traders this year in order to adhere to the SOP and prevent crowding.

StarMetro found only one stall selling tortoise buns, set up across the street from the Tow Boo Keong Temple in Jalan Tokong.

Stall operator Foh Chee Cheong, 52, said many sellers understood the decision taken by the temple.

“We do not really mind.

“The situation with Covid-19 is really serious.

“Some decided not to sell this year due to the many uncertainties, while others have set up stalls elsewhere, ” he said.

He disclosed that he was operating another stall in Jalan Chung Ah Ming, also near the temple.

“With the temple limiting the number of people into its premises, I think it will have an impact on my business, ” he added.

Foh said he was fortunate to still be able to get a good spot, which was right in front of his friend’s shop.

“People from other states who come to pray at the Tow Boo Keong Temple may not know where to get the buns, so they can just come over to buy from me.

“I will be operating until the last day of the festival, ” he said.

Too confirmed that the temple would not be serving any vegetarian meals either during the festival this time.

He said the temple would be open daily from 6am to 11pm throughout the festival.

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