PEKAN Tanjung Sepat in Kuala Langat is alive with festivities in conjunction with the birth month of the Iron General Deity.
This year, the celebration which started on April 21 (the eve of the deity’s birthday), will continue for 22 days.
Soon Tien Kong Temple committee member Yap Chee Chee said it was the biggest celebration in the new village and one of the grandest in the country owing to the duration of the festivities.
“It is not just devotees who flock to the celebration, 20 to 30 mediums from other temples are also invited to join in,” he added.
Chinese opera troupe members in full costume seeking blessings from the deity.
The main celebration was held on April 22, which is the deity’s birthday on the lunar calendar, and attended by devotees of all ages.
Rituals included crossing a bridge-like structure to receive blessings and sitting on a throne of nails to ward off evil.
The festival will also see daily opera shows in Teochew and Hokkien held at the temple’s community hall.
“It is an annual carnival for village folk,” Yap said.
The festival also attracts devotees from Singapore,Vietnam and even China, as well as tourists who visit Tanjung Sepat.
A medium, with his face blackened to look like the deity, brandishes a half-moon axe.
Citing examples of the faithful who travelled from afar, Yap said, “About 20 or 30 years ago, there was a Singaporean who had ‘received help’ from the Iron General Deity.
“To show his gratitude, he rode a motorcycle from Singapore to Tanjung Sepat with a statue of the deity strapped to his back.
“It was said that the rain followed him but he was not caught in the rain,” he added.
There is a devotee from China who sponsored one of the opera shows this year, while other devotees offer giant “dragon” joss sticks that burn throughout the festival.
Yap said the temple in Tanjung Sepat was established in 1913.
Giant ‘dragon’ joss sticks offered by devotees will burn throughout the 22-day festival.
“The deity was first brought over from China to Carey Island before making its way to Tan-jung Karang and finally to Tanjung Sepat.”
The Iron General is one of three brothers who carries a medicine bowl in one hand and a half-moon axe in the other.
Yap said devotees in the village believe that they had the deity’s protection on many occasions, including during the Japanese Encephalitis outbreak years ago.
He added that there were several beliefs and taboos related to the deity.
“There is a gate near the temple’s hall that is always closed except during special occasions like this festival, on advice by a medium when he was in trance.
“Once, someone forgot to lock the gate and strong winds blew away the hall’s zinc roof,” Yap recalled.
Devotees praying to the Iron General Deity and other deities at the temple in Tanjung Sepat.
Another interesting custom at the temple is related to the Tiger Deity, whose statue is normally placed beneath the altar of the Iron General Deity.
The Tiger Deity’s statue is fenced up and there is a sign telling devotees to make only vegetarian offerings.
“This is done to ‘contain’ the Tiger Deity,” he said.