The rains finally came to Ampang today and, poetically, it’s nice to think of it as the Emperor saying goodbye. The cosmos has regained an order, yin and yang are properly in balance and prayers for peace and prosperity have been carried to the heavens in clouds of sandalwood smoke.
The festival days have gone by in a blur of activity. Yesterday, the ninth day, was incredibly busy with no time to rest. At one point I even asked the Red Cross for water as I couldn’t get through the crowds to get it myself and the heat was making me dizzy. I took many photos, some of them through impenetrable smoke, so we’ll see what’s sharable.
It was a great day of events. At midday, there were special prayers by a group of officials from the Nine Emperor Gods Temple in Sibu who donated a beautiful table of food and flowers for the Emperor.
In the afternoon, the spirit mediums helped devotees pray to and “feed” the soldiers of the Emperor, for the third and final time. Then the temple grounds and buildings were inspected and blessed by Kau Ong Yah, who made the rounds to the genuflections and reverence of the devotees.
The firepit was prepared in the late afternoon inside a large fenced off area in front of the temple, making for quite a dramatic photo – black and white, yin and yang…
At 8:15pm, the male devotees walked across some very hot burning coals to substantiate the forces of Yang for all of the Emperor’s followers.
In the midst of all of that, throughout the day, the devotees found time for private prayer, a final few games of cards and majong, and plenty of laughter and talk of plans for next year’s festival.
Over the course of the day, thousands of worshipers came to the temple to pay their respects to the Emperor, creating an eye-stinging haze inside and out.
After the Firewalking, the ceremony was held, for the third and final time, so that the temple volunteers could pay respects to each of the main altars. One of my favourite parts of the closing evening happened around 10pm when the opera troupe performed a ritual in front of the main altar.
Over on the opera stage, there were performances at 8pm and again at 1:30am, before the sending off ceremony for the Emperor.
Then at 3:00AM devotees held their final devotional prayers and we walked the spirit Emperor back through the village of Ampang and sent him off in the back of a truck, to the river.
When we returned to the temple, the vendors were taking down their stalls, the coals from the firepit were still smoldering, and the devotees were slowly moving out of the dormitories. It seems that I was too weary to take any photos of the clean up, which means that I must have been pretty tired. I’ve taken photos of just about everything else! Home before light, but barely.
Lots of stories to tell and I will keep this up while I share what I have learned. I will continue to post links here if you send me online galleries and facebook albums. Let’s make this a place to share information and photos as a source for next year’s festival. Thanks to all for a great couple of weeks!