From Kow Ong Yah swinging his sword about on the Opera stage to rituals of thanksgiving and dormitories full of loving friends, Day 6 at Kow Ong Yah temple in Ampang was a real feast for the senses. There were gongs and fires and whistles and smoke. There were traffic jams and lines for food. A friend asked me the other day what I do in Ampang when I visit. Well, yesterday was a great example of just how enriched my life is by this festival. I chased the mediums through the temple grounds and tried to photograph birds being released to the heavens. I talked to devotees and shot some portraits. I was inspired and challenged and exhausted and loved every minute of it. I also liaised with many photographers and encouraged them to send me links to their photos. We know that there are many ways to shoot this festival and all of you are welcome to post links to your own work here. We can use this as a community portal – a digital version of the festival lantern pole that reaches to the skies.
So here are a few photos from yesterday. There are many more I could share but will save them for a quieter day.
Let’s start with food. Not only did the ladies in the kitchen prepare 3 meals for the hundreds of devotees at the temple, they also prepared 100 buckets of food to ceremonially feed the armies of the generals that protect the festival grounds. The woks were full all day.
Members of the committee also chipped in. Here my good friend Koh Ping and Mr Low Ching Poh help to serve food to devotees in the early morning.
Later in the day, I was treated to a delicious bowl of noodles mixed with some yummy black vinegar.
Is that enough about food? But let’s not forget that other Malaysian passion – shopping!
There was all that and more, including some important rituals throughout the day. The mediums got started at the main altar with a show of strength and control. The gods had arrived to inspect and protect the festival.
Kow Ong Yah made his way throughout the whole grounds, visiting the four corners, the altars, the kitchens and the dormitories.
This is an exciting time for the devotees who get to pay their personal respects to the Emperor and also receive his blessing.
It didn’t rain all day in Ampang although we could hear the thunder booming. The evening sky was as glorious as the colours of the festival.
In one particularly joyous moment, members of the opera troupe brought their baby god to the main altar so that it could be part of the ritual ceremony of the evening.
On the evenings of days 3, 6 and 9, special prayer items are passed, person to person, from altar to altar in a ceremony that I like to call “the round and round”.
As the crowds came back in to the temple after the ceremony, joss sticks and smoke filled the space, bringing tears to our eyes. Meanwhile, the medium offered believers the advice of the god.
Late in to the night, crowds gathered to watch the opera performance.
It was quite a show of glitz and glamour!
And with that, I headed out in to the massive traffic jam, and drove the wrong way along the road marked “laluan sehala” just for the fun of it. I could barely pull myself away. Headed back up there now for more!