Thursday March 12, 2009
The Star Online
By LOOI SUE-CHERN
THE annual Masi Magam Theppe Thiruvilla (floating chariot) festival — an event unique in the country will be included in Penang’s tourism calendar.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the seaside festival, which had been attracting tens of thousands of devotees to the 112-year-old Sri Singamuga Kaliamman Temple in Teluk Bahang yearly, had become the second largest Hindu celebration in the state after Thaipusam.
“This festival draws large number of devotees and tourists from other states and countries like Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.
“I hope the festival will continue to grow from strength to strength,” he said in his speech at the festival on Monday night.
Devotees chanting as they wait for the floating chariot to sail off
Lim said he hoped nearby hotels in Batu Ferringhi would extend their cooperation in drawing more tourists and devotees.
The festival is celebrated to honour Lord Sri Singamuga Kaliamman during the Masi Magam month of the Hindu calendar.
The Sri Singamuga Kaliam-man Temple, which is located near the Mutiara Beach Hotel that has been closed for renovations, is the only temple in the country that has a floating chariot for the festival.
That evening, the crowd at the temple had swelled up to some 50,000 by 6pm.
Devotees continued to pour in throughout the night, even after the floating chariot had been set adrift at about 7.45pm.
Temple secretary N. Ganesan estimated a record 70,000 devotees turned up for the festival.
“Last year, about 35,000 devotees turned up for the event. This year’s crowd is easily double of that,” he said.
He said the temple also received eight busloads of devotees from Indonesia.
“Three busloads carried travellers from the Penang International Airport while the remaining buses carried those who arrived by ferry,” he said.
The beautifully-decorated float bearing the deity was taken for a ride to the sea to mark the beginning of the celebration.
Also on board were Lim, Deputy Chief Minister II Dr P. Ramasamy and several members of the temple’s management committee.
The crowded seaside was all aglow with lights as thousands of devotees waded into the water to release their lit lanterns in a symbolic gesture of making wishes come true.
Devotee N. Vijiyalaxshmi, 21, K. Satiaveni, 18, and their cousins were among the thousands of devotees making their way through the massive crowd to light and release their lanterns on the beach.
“We are all from Klang. We came here on the invitation of our aunt who lives in Penang,” said an overwhelmed Vijiyalaxshmi who was clueless on what to do as this was their first experience.
“We only know that we are supposed to make a wish, light our lanterns and set them afloat into the sea.
“I am just wishing for Lord Sri Singamuga Kaliamman’s blessings and a happy life,” she said.
Satiaveni and another cousin S. Thipeseela, 18, however, had something more specific in mind to ask from the deity.
“We are expecting our SPM results and are hoping for good grades,” she said.