The nine emperor gods festival (Ã¤Â¹ÂÃ§Å½â€¹Ã§Ë†Â·) is a grand Taoist ritual where some Taoists go on strict vegetarian diet for either 9 or 3 days of the day festival. It starts tomorrow on the first day of the Chinese 9th lunar month until the 9th day.
The above is the temple along Jalan Burmah in Penang where the nine emperor gods are. (sorry I have never been inside and do not know if the gods are in statue or tablet form). All around the island, temporary makeshift stalls selling vegetarian foods can be found.
A scene outside the temple. Giant jossticks, oil (for lighting), rice (for donation to the needy) and other paper paraphernalias are sold. Taoists will place their vows and go on vegetarian fasts.
This vegetarian fast is rather strict as devotees are not allowed to consume onions, garlics, leeks, spring onions (as they are believed to cause sexual desires) and absolutely no animal source like milk or any dairy products. The plates, cooking utensils and everything else must be strictly for this vegetarian diet, i.e. newly bought and used for this festival only.
Those devotees taking part in the rituals are also not allowed to have sexual relationships during the nine days.
Spiral joss-sticks that will burn for nine days, offered by devotees.
On the eve of the nine day festivals, some of the temple religious followers will go into trance, go out at sea and invite the nine brothers. Many years back, I had the opportunity to witness the ceremony. If anyone has a chance, do take a look. All the different gods will be in their full suits like the monkey god, god of war, beggar god, child (nacha) god and others. You can expect a lot of whipping and swords fights.
It is believed that these nine brothers lived out at sea and perished during a storm. So, whenever the nine days festival come by, it is sure to rain. In fact, during the late 70s, the Penang island was so badly flooded.
Food of course is the centre of attraction. There will be all kinds of vegetarian foods on sale. Mock ducks, pigs, chicken, fish, prawns and every kind of ‘animals’ are cleverly made from soy and gluten products. Nowadays, there is even vegetarian laksa and pizzas.
The two main locations where lots of foods are sold in Penang are at Madras Lane and the field at Caunterhall flats.
All the above photos were taken from the temple at Jalan Burmah which is opposite TM Net.
After the nine days, the devotees whom had fasted will perform fire walking, piercing (something like Thaipusam) and other rituals to test their faiths. After which, a ceremony to send the gods back to sea will take place again. Expect at least a drizzle or shower on this day because it is said that these nine emperor gods are very neat people and must have the roads they travel on to be ‘washed’ before their journey.
Please surf over to TV Smith’s site for his lovely photos on this festival.
I hope have a chance to take photos of the vegetarian foods in the next few days.
(Note: All these are things I heard while growing up and I used to accompany my mother-in-law to the temples. I am a Christian.)