Snake temple all abuzz again

Slither and smile: Saw (left) and her family members posing with two snakes at the temple in Bayan Lepas. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: After two years, the famous snake temple in Bayan Lepas was teeming with people as thousands of devotees and visitors came to celebrate the birthday of the deity Chor Soo Kong.

The birthday of the deity, which falls on the sixth day of Chinese New Year, saw the worshippers offering prayers, fruits, joss sticks and other items at the Ban Ka Lan Snake Temple.

Among them was Ong Cheo Zhi, 20, who brought his girlfriend Wu Ya Xuan, 19, from Taiwan.

Ong, from Perak, said this was his second visit to the temple.

“I decided to bring my girlfriend, who studies at the same university as me, to celebrate Chinese New Year here,” he said, adding that he prayed that he and his girlfriend would do well in their studies.

The couple bravely touched the reptiles and posed for pictures with them.

Another devotee, Saw Bee Bee, 50, came with her husband, mother and granddaughter for the first time in 10 years.

“The last time I came, it was hard to find parking but they have proper parking lots now,” she said.

Saw added that this year, she prayed for her family’s good health.

Managed by the Penang Hokkien Kongsi, the temple is famous for its flame-watching ritual. which was held on Thursday night.

The flames are said to predict the state’s fortunes for the year.

Hokkien Kongsi chairman Datuk Khoo Kay Hock said the temple saw a good turnout this year.

“Many of the devotees came on Thursday night. We also had an opera show during the festival to mark the deity’s birthday,” he said.

He added that the good turnout was because many people had decided to come this year after staying away for the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Khoo said the devotees took the opportunity to offer their prayers, which they had not been able to do during the pandemic.

The 213-year-old temple was built for Master Qingshui, a Chinese Buddhist monk who lived during the 10th-century Song Dynasty.

When he died at 65, the monk was honoured with the title “Chor Soo”, meaning eminent historical figure, and thereafter worshipped.

Legend has it that the deity gave shelter to snakes from the nearby jungle. When the temple was completed, the snakes, most of which were dangerous pit vipers, moved in and were regarded as Chor Soo Kong’s protectors.

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