Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Festive Season

August is a festive season in Malaysia.  This year it includes Ramadan in addition to the normal festivities.  We have been observing the Ramadan fast,  seeing...not partaking.  Ramadan bazaars  are a feature of the season.  They spring up around transportation centers (LRT stations, car parks, shopping center parking lots, and bus stations).  They open at about 3PM and are gone by 7:30PM.  They provide inexpensive take-away tradional food for breaking the fast after evening prayers.  We have sampled the dishes and they are good renditions of Malay tradional food.
But other events abound in August....The feast of the hungary ghost (which Liz blogged about in an earlier post), the the mid summer moon festival.  Now this is celebrated with the appearence of Mooncakes....a wonderful pastry with a fudge like filling.  They are rich enough to require being split into multiple pieces.  They come in all flavours from green tea, lotus root, to modern coffee and moka flavours.  The moon cakes are produced by local bakeries, are imported from Taiwan, and can be found for sale in the local Starbucks.  One baker guaranteed that their product would remain good until October 15th, if hidden from the in-laws.
Other events take place during August, including one where the local God's parade around the local area.  In this case the Gods from a temple in the central business district of KL (Jalan Bukit Bintang area) take a tour of the local streets.  This had not happened for 4 years so the Gods were restless.  The Gods began their stroll sometime after 7PM and manged to miss the tourist restaurants on Jalan Alor.  The Gods know not to interfer with business.
Security for the parade is provided by the motorcycle mounted members of RELA, a volunteer force of the Malaysian government.

The parade began with a chinese medium strolling the streets carrying a rope and a snakeskin whip (in his left hand).

He was followed by Lion Dancers (Three lions).
Lion Dancer
The Lion Dancers charged up the street to the sound of large drums and yells from the supporting cast.  Following these were a series of mediums (people who channel the gods).  The linked article by R. Lee,  an anthropologist at the University of Malaya describes in detail Chinese mediums in urban malaysian cities.  In a much earlier post by Liz in her blog from 2008, she describes her encounter with a "god".  But in my observation, the medium need a lot of care and tending by their "retainers".  These medium have people to adjust the iron bars balanced in their mouths, provide for stools for them to sit on, and otherwise provide support.....much like corner men do for their boxers during a fight.
Medium and Assistant
There were a number of mediums including one woman.
Woman medium
Following the mediums were the gods.  The temple gods are carried in sedan chairs.  Seven men carry each chair,  4 supporting the chair, two responsible for swinging the chair from side to side, and one for carrying the supports for the chair.  All I can say is the Gods got a wild ride through town.
God in sedan chair
The final part of the parade are the Gods on the motorized floats.  Much like an RV, but containing a massive generator to power the electric lights the Gods make their way down the street.

The end of the parade.

No comments:

Post a Comment