I still have a fond memory when I was a child that my mother used to take us 3 siblings to the temple during the three most auspicious day of Kuan Yin festival to commemorate:
During the 3 auspicious time of the year, the temple is flock with devotees of different age - young and old, and wealth - the have and the have not. The air is filled intensely with heavy, scented smoke of burning incense joss sticks inside and outside the temple. The worshippers will either bring their own joss sticks or buy from one of the stalls outside the temple. They will light the joss sticks from one of the many red candles on the altar, make their prayers and stick them into one of the many urns. Or, they will buy one of the sacred oil filled bottle to pray as an offering. Others will pay a small token for their fortune to be told - a bamboo cylindrical holder filled with narrow flat bamboo sticks inscribed with characters. The devotee will quietly utters his or her prayer while shaking the bamboo holder until one of the stick falls out. He or she will then retrieve that fallen stick from the floor and takes it to a temple staff in exchange for the fortune note.
Devotees come to Kuan Yin Teng (“Teng” means temple) to pray for a different reason but mostly for their loved ones - mum, dad, husband, wife, brother, sister, son and daughter. They will ask the Kuan Yin for the protection against bad and evil karma, better health and better future, recovery from sickness and illness, finding love, marriage, and many other reasons. Kuan Yin is believed by the devotees as a loving, caring and compassionate deity.
I remember the middle temple hall’s atrium that opens out into the sky with cobblestones floor. The open atrium was used by a Chinese medium who would go into a trance. Devotees believed the medium is being possessed by one of the deity in the temple. The Chinese medium will be prancing round and round the cobblestone floor holding a heavy whip and other deity possession, whipping his back and chest chanting and chanting. This ritual will go on and on for an hour or so. Devotees will pray and ask the Chinese medium for a spiritual advice and blessing. As a kid, I remember the Chinese medium going into a trance spooked me and gave me sleepless nights.
The temple itself has a long history dating back to the 1800s. The architecture is rich in heritage values and protected by UNESCO as a world heritage site. The temple recently went through a major restoration program. It looks better - light, bright and clean. Its history is illustrated with old photographs inside one of the hall, next to the main temple.
This temple is located at Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling. A visit to Penang is not complete until you have visited and walked along this street of harmony. There is a church - St George Anglican Church (built and completed in 1818), an Indian temple - Sri Mahamariamman Temple (built in 1833), and a mosque - Kapitan Keling Mosque (built and completed in 1801). Four different religions and places of worship in the same street within a hundred metre from each other. Where else in the world can you find a city that is as diverse as Penang - a place that is so significant to showcase its multiculturalism and diversity in its people and tradition.
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