Penang, Malaysia, is popular for its diversity which is also why the city celebrates a number of festivals throughout the year from different religions and cultures. There are festivals all year round in Penang and as a result, the people of Penang are always celebrating something or the other. This is also the reason why people from all over the world are drawn to Penang and also why you will find many tourists in the city participating in these festivals. The Nine Emperor Gods Festival 2015 or the ‘Rumah Berhala Tow Boo Kong’ is celebrated every year in Penang as well as many other cities around the world. This festival takes place on the 9th day of the 9th month of the lunar calendar in temples all around Penang.
According to history, it is on this day that the spirits of the emperor gods, all nine of them, descend to the Earth, put people in a trance in order to use them as mediums. The festival is celebrated with vigor by the people of Penang who are dressed in white and travel in processions, holding candles and incense, waiting for the nine emperor gods to arrive. People are seen walking on hot coals, holding fire in their palm as well as piercing their faces with sharp spears to demonstrate their dedication to the gods. The festival goes on for nine days and on the last day, the procession ends in front of the beach, to bid the gods farewell.
The nine days are spent worshipping the emperor gods while others participate in the ceremony of devotion to the gods. The Nine gods were martyrs who were emperors in ancient China and were said to be the sons of Dou Mu, whose sculpture is seen holding the sun in one outstretched hand and the moon in the other. The characters on the sculpture reflect the characters that are translated to the mean Ming Dynasty. This is why the emperor gods are believed to be a part of the Ming Dynasty and the celebrations are believed to restore the Ming Dynasty one day.
All the devoted worshippers of the Nine Emperor gods give up meat and consume a strict vegetarian diet for the entire duration of 9 days. This is done to achieve spiritual cleansing and it is believed that praying for blessings in these 9 days helps ward off bad luck. On the 9th day, the festival ends after sending off the 9th emperor until the next day. This year, the festival will be celebrated from the 13th to the 21st of October and the streets of Penang will be filled with thousands of devotees throughout the 9-day long festival.
People of all religions are welcome to experience and participate in these festivals, regardless of their personal beliefs. So, if you are in Penang in October this year 2015, be sure to join in the festivities to experience the devotion of the believers to the 9 emperor gods. It is a truly spiritual and transcendent experience.