No procession for Tow Boo Kong Temple

Say a prayer: Devotees praying while maintaining physical distancing at the Macallum Street Tow Boh Keong Kew Ong Tai Tay Temple. — LIEW JIA XIAN/The Star

BUTTERWORTH: For the second time in its 50-year history, the Tow Boo Kong Temple in Jalan Raja Uda, Butterworth, is not organising procession for thousands of devotees to send off the Nine Emperor Gods. Temple chairman Datuk Khor Wan Tat said only two temple advisers and a few committee members would take part in the ritual to send off the gods from Pantai Bersih in Bagan Ajam tomorrow.

“We have to call off the procession to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“Due to the standard operating procedure (SOP), only 250 devotees are allowed to pay homage to the gods at the temple compound on that day.

“Once the advisers leave for the send-off at the sea, the devotees have to leave the temple as well to mark the end of this year’s Nine Emperor Gods festival,” he said when contacted.

Over the years, the culmination of the festival on the last day will see the urn of the nine brother deities being carried on the float.

It will then lead devotees in a procession from the temple to Pantai Bersih in Bagan Ajam for the grand send-off, a ritual that signifies the return of the deities to heaven.

Khor said the last time the temple had to call off its procession was in 1998 due to political unrest at the federal level.

He said they had planned for a grand celebration this year as the temple is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

“Due to the current situation, we have to postpone the programmes to next year,” he said.

Over at the Macallum Street Tow Boh Keong Kew Ong Tai Tay Temple, the number of devotees has also been halved due to the restrictions in temple premises.

Its chairman Yeoh Kheng Hoe said they adhered strictly to the SOP to ensure that all devotees and temple volunteers are safe and healthy.

“Before entering the temple premises, devotees have to register or sign in using the MySejahtera app and have their temperatures taken besides sanitising their hands.

“Only 15 devotees are allowed to enter the hall to worship at any one time,” he said.

Yeoh said all the other temple rituals were called off as well.

“We have three shifts of five hours each where our temple volunteers help to control the crowd.

“We have only one entry and exit point at the temple.

“The temple discourages children under the age of 12 and adults over 70 from coming in as they belong to the high-risk category.

“After making their offerings, devotees are not allowed to stay in the temple premises,” he said.

The festival, held on the first day of the ninth lunar month and is observed with much reverence by the Taoist community, ends tomorrow.

Devotees practise a strict vegetarian diet during the nine-day festival that pays homage to the Goddess of the North Star, believed to control the Books of Life and Death.

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