Spiritual time in Malaysia


By LAM LI
  • Nation
  • Friday, 15 Oct 2004

BY LAM LI

PETALING JAYA: There is an air of spirituality over multi-racial and multi-religious Malaysia. 

Today, Muslims welcome their holy month – Ramadan – by starting a period of fasting and abstinence.  

Yesterday, Hindus and Taoist Chinese started celebrating Navarathri (nine nights) and the Nine Emperor Gods Festival respectively which fall at the same time every year according to the lunar calendar. 

Meanwhile, the Catholics are well into observing the Rosary month that falls every October.  

Describing this confluence of religious festivities as a rare occasion, Malaysian Interfaith Network founder and committee member Datuk Dr Ismail Noor called on Malaysians to reach out to each other to promote better understanding. 

“These are examples of a common ground and we should take the opportunity to observe how others conduct ceremonies. 

'Tai Wong Yeh' handing out longevity buns, tortoise-shaped buns and ang pows to devotees at the Looi Woh Koong Temple in Ipoh yesterday.

“This is a time to be inclusive, and not exclusive, to open up and become Bangsa Malaysia, to not only tolerate but also understand each other,” he said. 

Throughout Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food and drink from the break of dawn until sunset, stay away from bad thoughts and attend prayer sessions in mosques. 

During Navarathri, Hindus go to temples and, at home, create a golu padi (nine steps) and place dolls dressed to represent the incarnations of Goddess Shakti – Durga (representing valour), Lakshimi (wealth) and Saraswathi (knowledge).  

According to Hindu mythology, there was a time when the world and heaven were in the powerful grip of the buffalo-like demon, Mahishasura, whom no man could defeat. 

Goddess Shakti is said to have spent nine days fasting to gain strength and, in a grand showdown on the 10th day of Vijayadashami, to have decisively slayed the demon, which many believe symbolises the weaknesses within which need to be quelled. 

As for the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, it is believed to be a fusion of Taoism and Buddhism that has been Malaysianised as it is widely celebrated among the Hokkien clan here but not in China. 

There are many theories about the identity of the Nine Emperor Gods, including that of nine heroic generals in ancient China who sacrificed their lives to protect the country and were deified after their deaths. 

Devotees go on a vegetarian diet and fast as a cleansing process in preparation for prayer sessions. Some perform stunts like walking over burning charcoal to demonstrate mind over matter. 

Hundreds of devotees paid tribute to the first of the Nine Emperor Gods on his birthday yesterday at the Looi Woh Koong Temple in Ipoh.  

The devotees went down on their knees to pray to Tai Wong Yeh, who “appeared” through a temple medium, at 12.15pm yesterday.  

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