Big celebration in Little India

Annual ritual: Hindu devotees joining the chariot procession in front of the temple.

THE nine-day Navarathri Festival came to a spectacular end with hundreds of Hindu devotees and visitors thronging the Arulmigu Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Queen Street, Penang, to witness a grand chariot procession.

It was a colourful night in the Little India enclave as the devotees turned up with their family members and friends, all garbed in their traditional clothes — saree, dhoti, kurta and jippa.

The statue of the Goddess Sri Maha Mariamman holding the holy trisulam (trident) was put on a silver chariot before being pulled by two bulls in the procession on Wednes-day.

The crowd was also mesmerised by a cultural peacock performance, kavadi and bommalattam (huge puppet) dance accompanied by groups playing drums and singing religious hymns.

Some devotees were seen offering fresh fruits, flowers, coconuts and donations on bronze trays along the route while the smell of incense filled the air.

A devotee, C. Vivekananthaa, 24, who had been away from Penang for four years for his studies, was glad to be able to join in the procession again at the temple.

“Navarathri is significant because for nine days we pray to three Goddesses — Durga (Goddess of Bravery), Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth) and Saraswati (Goddess of Knowledge) — before they combine forces to destroy the devil on the last day of this festival.

“Many people don’t know that it is because of Navarathri Festival, the Hindus celebrate Deepavali. Usually only after this festival would my family go shopping for the Festival of Lights,” said the teacher of SMJK (C) Phor Tay who has been joining the procession since the age of six.

Vivekananthaa said some youngsters felt that such festivals, rituals and beliefs were outdated, but they did not realise that it was a part of their culture.

“But as you can see, there is still a big group of them here. It all depends on the family upbringing,” he said, adding that the Goddess Sri Maha Mariamman is one of the manifestations of Durga and she is prayed to in the morning of Deepavali.

Tan Lay Fern, 36, went with her husband and their two-year-old son to see the procession, making it the fourth time the couple attended the event.

“We came to lau juak (join in the merriment). Although the Chinese and the Indian cultures are different but we can always try to understand and learn from each other.

“Yesterday, I joined the Nine Emperor Gods Festival procession and tonight I’m here for this. This is 1Malaysia mah,” said the florist, adding that she extended her vegetarian diet a day after the Nine Emperor Gods Festival for the Navarathri Festival.

The procession reached the climax when it stopped at the Espla-nade seafront where the priest on the chariot used a bow and sent arrows into the air as a symbolic ritual of killing the demon king Mahishasuran.

Temple chairman N. Vasantharajan said the ritual had been carried out for more than 100 years at the same spot.

The procession which started at 7pm on Wednesday after a sparkling fireworks display went through Lebuh Queen, Lebuh Chulia, Lebuh King, Jalan Padang Kota Lama, Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah, Lebuh Light, Lebuh Penang, Lebuh China, Lebuh Pitt, Lebuh Bishop, Lebuh Penang, Lebuh Chulia, Pengkalan Weld and Lebuh Victoria before reaching the temple at about 3am yesterday.

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