Nine Emperor Gods Festival comes to a grand finale

Ready to set sail: Lim (right) and other members of the Tow Boe Keong Kew Ong Tai Tay Temple preparing the ship model for the Nine Emperor Gods festival before the final send-off ceremony in Lebuh Macallum, Penang. — ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: It’s all set and ready to sail for the deities of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival or Kew Ong Yeah which comes to a finale tonight.

Thousands of devotees are expected to converge at various temples after missing out on the festival due to various Covid-19 restrictions with celebrations only being held on a minimal scale.

At the Tow Boe Keong Kew Ong Tai Tay Temple in Gat Lebuh Macallum, Lim Chin Joo said final prayers would be held throughout the evening before the Emperor Boat is set on fire and pushed out to sea from the Ong Jetty in Weld Quay at about 8pm.

“We have been celebrating the festival for over 120 years and are glad to reopen to large crowds after being restricted for two years.

“Devotees from near and far are coming and we expect some from as far as Indonesia and Singapore.

“This year, although the temple has imposed a maximum crowd of 500 people, we expect many more to gather outside during the send-off.

“There will also be lion dance performances as well as other activities,” said the 63-year-old temple member.

Yesterday, volunteers at the temple, which faces the seafront, were seen busy making final preparations for the end of the festival.

Besides decorating the boat with flowers, they filled it with prayer paraphernalia and food.

At the Tow Boo Kong Temple in Jalan Raja Uda, Butterworth, its chairman Datuk Khor Wan Tat said prayers would be held during a presentation of vegetarian food offering to the spirit generals of the Five Guardian Posts at 2pm.

This will be followed by the sending off at about 8.30pm.

“The boat will make its way from the temple to the beach in Pantai Bersih. As the boat is lowered into the sea, devotees will kneel and pray for the country’s peace and prosperity,” he said.

The Nine Emperor Gods Festival started on Sept 26, the first day of the ninth lunar month.

The nine-day festival, observed by Taoists, is dedicated to the nine sons of Tou Mu, the Goddess of the North Star, who is believed to control the Books of Life and Death.

Her sons, deified as ren huang (human sovereigns), are said to have the ability to cure illnesses and bless devotees with luck, wealth and longevity.

Devotees believe the gods come through the waterway and processions are usually held from the temples to the river or seashore as a symbolic gesture.

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