Monday, April 14, 2008

Chariot of fire

Yesterday, Sunday April 13, was a day of prayers and festivities, with the Thais marking Songkran festival (also observed in Penang and other parts of Malaysia) and the Tamils ushering in the Sarvathari (or, Savithri/Savitri) year. Marking the latter in my neck of the woods was this blazing chariot the slowed traffic down, leaving onlookers quite overawed.

Taking pride of place on the chariot is an altar, softly cushioned by beautiful garlands of flowers, while a pleasing and subtle incense wafted through the air as the chariot passed by. Three priests stood on deck, accepting offerings from devotees; their movements slow, deliberate and worshipful.

Two stallions ‘pulled’ the chariot, although the real horsepower came from …

… a sturdy, modern tractor.

This second view of the front of the chariot is notable for the man on the right – he’s the barber who started cutting my hair over 30 years ago, and has seen our neighbourhood grow, and his customers grow up. He charges RM12 for a haircut.

Accompanying the chariot are musicians who kept up a steady beat and melody.

A man with a long pole walked ahead of the chariot, gently lifting up electrical wires to let the procession pass.

Devotees, many of them shorn of their shoes, follow the chariot with their offerings in hand.

The procession passed through multi-ethnic neighbourhoods and the expressions of the residents’ different faiths. For most parts, Malaysians of all beliefs live together without the friction that has torn many nations apart, despite attempts from conservatives of all stripes more interested in raising fences instead of building bridges.

When the chariot stops at a spot where some devotees have gathered, folks young and old hurl coconuts on the ground. An observer of a similar procession notes: “Participants take each coconut and violently smash them to the ground. Hindus believe that the shell of the coconut symbolises the illusions of the earthly realm, the meat corresponds to human "karma", and the milk represents the ego. Smashing the coconuts means renouncing the physical realm and offering oneself to Ganesha.”

One devotee stood in front of the chariot and broke open coconuts with a parang; the coconut juice raining all over the tarred road.

Some stand a little further back, raising their offerings…

… while others stand still in deep prayer.

Everyone, including the priests, found joy in the occasion.


Jen L. said...

Wow. What amazing pictures.

T Clarke said...

I echo Jen's comments. Fantastic photos!


1) Write your own six word memoir
2) Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you want
3) Link to the person that tagged you in your post, and to the original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere
4) Tag at least five more blogs with links
5) Leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

Aromatic Beans said...

Thanks for the tag, Mr. Clarke! Credit for the pictures, I have to admit, goes to my borrowed Nikon D40, since almost everything was shot in the "Auto everything even monkey can use" mode!