French MVs at Yogyakarta

by Marie-Andree Abt

For the fourth time, the French MV`s of Jakarta, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur met for a cultural gathering. This time, we were four from Kuala Lumpur and 18 altogether. We had the opportunity to visit Borobodur, Prambanan and a part of old Yogyakarta with all the information we could have dreamed about, thanks to the hard work of the Jakarta French team.

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French MVs at Borobodur

After half a dozen loops above the airport due to a malfunction of the control tower, we landed and were welcomed by the president of the IHS (initiator of these cultural meetings) and Laurence, both former Kuala Lumpur MVs. We were met by a few other Jakarta guides and went directly to visit Candi Mendut and sank into the Buddhist culture. Candi Mendut is one of the three buildings erected aligned with Borobodur in the 9th century. It was restored beginning of the twentieth century using the anastylose method, a technique developed by the “French School of Oriental Art” (yeah!!).

Then we proceeded to the Manohara Hotel, very conveniently situated, right at the foot of Borobodur. From there, our guides brought us to a wonder for tea time, the Aman Jiwo hotel. Modelled on a stupa, the lobby is facing Borobodur valley with the rooms spread in half concentric circles of smaller stupas, just like Borobodur itself. We had the opportunity to visit the rooms but for the asking price, we decided to come back only for the tea with our respective husbands! After a long delay and also a few rounds in the sky of Yogyakarta, the Singapore guides arrived and could enjoy the breath taking site seeing.

Back to the hotel, we met the last of the Jakarta guides (no tea in wonderland for them, sadly!). Then the serious work began: a cultural “apero” was waiting for us at the library. Most of “foreign” guides had bought a bottle of wine at the duty free and after the welcome word and batik gift from our president, we shared the firsts of them while listening to Colette presenting the highlight of the trip: Borobodur. We learned it was built in the 9th century by kings of the Sailendra dynasty. It is a mountain temple made of 4 square terraces and 3 round ones, each one smaller than the preceding one and topped  by the main empty stupa. Each square terrace comprises two walls facing each other and displaying a strip depicting the life of Buddha, the legend of his previous lives and the everyday life of common people of the time. The first terrace walls being higher than the other three, accommodate two strips per wall. The pilgrims had (and again since the 90’s only and after a long oblivion) worshiped, by doing as many tours of the galleries as there are strips; altogether, they have to walk 5km before reaching the circular terraces where 72 stupas containing a Buddha are their reward. On the last terrace a large empty stupa shows the vacuity of life. Here the pilgrim can make a wish and tour the stupa with an uneven number of paces and in silence to get it granted.

Then it was dinner again for us in the nice Plataran hotel. The Mongolian barbecue was delicious!

After a short night for most of the MVs, they woke up at 4:15 am to go and discover Borobodur at sunrise. Too early for me! But it was said to be very nice in the mist. After a well-earned breakfast (for them…), we all went to the foot of Borobodur for further talks on central Java history and Buddhism. That is when we discovered the difference between enlightenment and awakening, vacuity and emptiness. I cannot say I understood everything but, well, I was enlightened! At long last, we began the climb of the sacred mountain and received more information about the nicest and most famous bas-relief. There we discovered the famous 4 boats which are not from Majapahit, as they were carved too early to be from that kingdom’s time, but plain Javanese boats.

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Javanese traditional boat on a Borobodur bas relief

We did only one tour of each gallery. When we arrived at the main stupa, all of us tried the wish trick (even though the silent part was difficult for us!). Let`s see if our wishes will be fulfilled!

We climbed down the temple and up again a hill facing Borobodur for a last presentation of the restoration of Borobodur before a well-earned nasi or mee goreng back at the hotel.

Then it was the much expected visit of the …. unexpected: the “gereja ayam”. After yet another straining climb, a kind of pillbox in the shape of a hen was awaiting us. Our guides told us it was a prayer room built by a man who had a vision; God told him to build a prayer room in the shape of a dove in the middle of the jungle and here it was, very unexpected indeed! Even though, it was not completed due to lack of funds and looking more like a hen (ayam) rather than a dove.

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Gereja ayam

Back to the bus, we went to the last of the three buildings built aligned with, and at the same time of, Borobodur, Candi Prawon. It is a shrine (probably the shrine of a King), not a temple. Then it was back to Yogyakarta, where a 2 hours rest was most welcome. Then, we learned about the story of Yogyakarta, one of the only two provinces with a sultan only since 1755, the other one being Solo. We also had our first encounter with Hinduism, in a presentation of Prambanan. Prambanan was built at the same time as Borobodur. It is a cluster of temples. The main one is dedicated to Shiva (Agastya, Ganesh and Durga), between one to Brahma and one to Vishnu; each god’s temple is fronted by atemple dedicated to his own vehicle, respectively Nandi, Hamsa and Garuda.

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Ganesh in Shiva temple at Prambanan

In front of these 6 temples were 254 or 249 (we cannot remember!) small temples which are now just piles of stones anyway and whose function has yet to be determined.

During the diner at a French restaurant that followed, we emptied a few more bottles and were happy to have a good night sleep after!

Wednesday morning we met our local French speaking guide for a visit of old Yogyakarta. He showed us a wet market and we took nice pictures of the group at the Sultan’s Bath. None of us were sent a flower to go and swim at his private swimming pool!

From there we went and visited the underground mosque. I was there when Wahida called about the university visits on the 9th December and 12th January, relayed by Sylvia to KL MVs; by the way, we still need help for the visit on the 12th January at 4:00 p.m. !!

We finished the morning in a “wayang kulit” workshop where we learned the symbols belonging to the Javanese philosophy in the carvings of the puppets. The ones I remember:

  • They have a long nose because they look for knowledge in the West.
  • They have big feet and short legs to stand firmly on Earth.

The lower part of their bodies is round like the Earth with carvings representing Fire, Water and Air.

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Details on a puppet carving

The tree of life is full of symbols as well. The base is a Yoni, then there are several animals: the bull (strength), the tiger (cleverness), the snake and some monkeys.

After tasting some of the preferred courses of the sultans, we reached Prambanan. During the visit, Colette described each divinity but, unfortunately for the 4 of us, it was soon  time to go and catch our plane back home and we could not attend the end of the lecture. The Jakarta guides left one hour after us and the Singapore MVs had a plane only the next morning at 6:00 am! But at least, they could finish the bottles Wednesday night. I do not know in which state they were in the morning!

As you can see it was a very busy, interesting, enriching trip, well washed down (not only with wine, but rain as well!); I want to thank the Jakarta team for all their hard preparatory work.

You are interested in this kind of trip? I`ll tell you two secrets, Jamil asked me the contact of the “Singapore Friends of Museums” to organise a similar treat with them. And Karen is considering a field trip to Borobodur.

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Prambanan

Tea – History, Culture, and Trade by the Potful

by Chen Poh Leng

A healthy lunch with tea as an ingredient in all its dishes was indeed a perfect way to start my journey of knowledge into tea culture and history. As we savoured our lunch, we were informed by Katharine Yip, our fellow MV and event organiser, that Purple Cane, the organisation that was hosting this afternoon’s presentation, was a home grown tea merchant (since 1987) which also incorporated the promotion of tea culture into its marketing strategy.

We were introduced to Ms Hooi, our teacher, and her team of tea art instructors (incidentally all ladies; I wonder why…) who collectively have decades of experience in the world of tea. Ms Hooi proceeded with her story in Mandarin and Katharine acted as our translator.

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Ms. Hooi and her team of trainers with Katherine (right most) who acted as our translator
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Lu Yu with his ‘Classic of Tea’. Image taken from http://origins-of-tea.blogspot.my/2012/10/lu-yu-and-classic-of-tea.html

The recorded history of tea goes all the way back to the 9th century CE during the Tang Dynasty in China. The earliest record was by Lu Yu, writer of the ‘Classic of Tea’. He was attributed as the first person to advocate consuming tea on its own. Before that, tea was taken as a blended infusion with other ingredients, such as ginger, spring onion and peppers used in everyday cooking. Special tea brewing utensils were documented.

In the early days, harvested tea leaves were made into compressed tea cakes for easy storage. During the Tang dynasty, these tea leaves were first crushed then boiled with water before it was drunk. Later, during the Sung dynasty, crushed and ground tea leaf powder were added to boiling water using a whisk; hence, the foamy infusion.

Back then, tea drinking was a pastime for nobles. It was purely for high society. Tea drinking was introduced to the commoners only during the Ming dynasty. Tea preparation was simplified in that the crushing and whisking processes were eliminated. Tea leaves were simply infused as whole leaves in boiling water; a much simpler and practical process.

As the story of tea continued, a process known as fixation was introduced to stop harvest leaves from oxidation that would change their colour, texture and aroma. This could be done by first steaming the leaves then applying heat to stop oxidation; or ‘pan-frying’ the leaves in a big iron wok by stirring them quickly with the hands to prevent the leaves from being burnt.

Tea leaves were commonly used as a trading commodity. Among the earliest tea trading during the Tang dynasty was a unique way of trading known as the Tea-Horse Barter Trade, whereby tea leaves grown in the Southwestern China was barter traded across the Mongolian borders for horses.

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The ancient Tea-Horse Barter Trade route. Photo taken from http://confuciusmag.com/ancient-tea-horse-road-linking-civilizations

Tea spread to Japan as early as the Tang Dynasty, but it was the Zen Buddhist monk Eisai who first introduced the healthy benefits of drinking tea to the Japanese. He brought tea seeds as well as the Chinese tea culture from China back to Japan during the Sung dynasty; over time, this culture subsequently developed into the very unique Cha-no-yu, the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

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During the Ming dynasty, another Japanese Zen Buddhist monk, Rikyu, made great strides in Japanese tea culture from which little has changed to this day. He is revered as the greatest master of Japanese tea culture. From here, there was a split into three schools of practices, one of which has been passed down 16 generations to present day.

In Korea, the tea culture was introduced by a Zen Buddhist monk named Cho Ui, who is also the author of the famous tea book, ‘Ode to Eastern Tea’.

Tea reached the West in the 17th Century. Based on written journals, the Portuguese have been identified as the first Westerners who introduced tea to the western world. They brought it home for their own consumption. Later, the Dutch made tea a trading commodity and they were the ones who first distributed tea leaves in Europe. The English soon developed their love for tea. A lady-in-waiting of Queen Victoria by the name of Anna Maria Russell was credited for starting the afternoon tea tradition in the 19th century. It was specifically for the nobles when it was first started, because of the long gap between lunch and late evening meals normally served after 8pm.

purple-cane-house-brand-purple-clay-gourd-teapotFrom the early 1900s to 1970s, development of the tea culture came to a halt in China for various reasons. This interest was however revived in Taiwan in the 1980s. Publications on tea culture and tea art masters emerged. The use of small tea pots became popular.

In Malaysia, tea consumed by Malaysians fall into 2 main categories, i.e. black tea and Chinese tea. Sources of black tea include those harvested and produced by the 4 tea plantations in Malaysia, the notable ones being Boh tea in Cameron Highlands and Sabah tea. Black tea is used very commonly as teh tarik served at the Mamak food stalls and Malay eateries, as well as in Chinese Kopitiams largely started by the Hainanese in the early days.

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Serving tea

The habit of drinking Chinese tea traces its origin to Chinese migrants to Malaya. They brought tea along for making their daily beverage. Decades on, Chinese tea is still being brought in. Consumption of Chinese tea is popular among different communities, and typically, the choice of teas has a lot to do with their clans, villages or towns of origin.

In the past, Chinese tea consumed in Malaysia used to be sourced through Singapore.  The Tea Merchant’s Association, Federation of Malaya (now Tea Trade Association of Malaysia) was established in 1955.  Nowadays, up to 88% percent of tea leaves are directly imported into Malaysia from China. Much of the import is conducted through tea associations.  We were told, globally, black tea is the highest in demand now.

Modern tea culture is characterised by modern day tea houses and new trends such as bubble tea, etc. This was spearheaded by Taiwan back in the 1980’s. Purple Cane, established in 1987, continues to ride on this, actively promoting modern day tea culture as proven with this specially organised activity for the MVs, for which the MVs are truly grateful.

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Image taken from http://esgreen.com/info/history-of-tea-in-china/

ASEAN Songket Exhibition

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Wall hanging. From the private collection of Yayasan Tuanku Nur Zahirah

The on-going exhibition at Muzium Negara, titled “Songket: The Queen of Fabrics – 1Family 1Heritage”, showcases songket pieces from around ASEAN countries. Do try to catch this very interesting exhibition before it ends on 31st December 2016.

Songket is brocade and its designs are usually inspired by nature where the weavers turn into art their impressions of the environment, as well as of the flora and fauna around them. However, the songket pieces on display also include some unique expressions such as the piece below which describes the contents of Noah’s ark.

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Songket Lampung from South Sumatra illustrating Noah’s ark and its contents

Other interesting pieces include a shoulder cloth whose pattern is taken from the Durga stone statue at Singasari and a songket piece which combines Minangkabau and Bugis patterns.

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Short sarong cloth with geometric patterns from Laos

The cotton material weaved by the Rungus community in Kudat, Sabah incorporate designs found on Dongson drums (bronze drums that originated in Northern Vietnam). To date, remains of only one Dongson drum have been unearthed in Sabah and, hence, the designs on the Rungus material provides an important means of elucidating the designs on these drum.

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Babaal, a back strapped loom used by the Rungus community in Sabah to weave cotton yarns
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A ‘kek’ (a type of loom) used by Malay weavers

Apart from songket pieces (sarong, samping, selendang, and tengkolok), there are also a number of looms on display showcasing production techniques.

 

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A loom for cotton threads used by the Cham community in Chao Doc, Vietnam to weave jihdalah (tassels and belts) as well as siaip (scarves)

The Forgotten Duo

by Maganjeet Kaur

Raja Abdullah and Yap Ah Loy have been pushed centre-stage to battle it out as founders of Kuala Lumpur, relegating to the background the two entrepreneurs who had developed a trading post at the confluence of Klang and Gombak Rivers, a trading post that would grow to become Kuala Lumpur. No street names laud their contributions but Hiu Siew was the first Kapitan Cina (Chinese Captain) of Kuala Lumpur and Ah Sze could have been either the second or third Kapitan had he wanted the job.

Their story starts in Lukut where they were joint owners of a tin-mine. It was here that they contracted a friendship with Sutan Puasa, a Mandailing trader servicing the Ampang tin mines, on whose advice they moved to the future Kuala Lumpur. Lukut was, until the border treaty of 1878, a part of Selangor and under the control of Raja Jumaat, an enterprising and capable leader. In 1857, Raja Abdullah, brother of Raja Jumaat, took 87 Chinese miners from Lukut and they started mining activities at Ampang, about five kilometres inland from the confluence. Raja Abdullah’s men were by no means the first miners at Ampang; this honour belongs to the Sumatrans who were probably there from as early as the 1820s. However, the increased activity brought about by Raja Abdullah’s team saw traders from Lukut moving to Ampang where they supplied the miners with food, essential items, opium, and spirits.

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A tin-mine at Ampang. Source: KITLV Universiteit Leiden

Goods bound to and from Ampang were loaded/unloaded at the confluence and, in all likelihood, a settlement existed there from an early period. However, the trading post had to be expanded rapidly in order to keep pace with the increased activity at Ampang and Sutan Puasa succeeded in persuading Hiu Siew and Ah Sze to relocate there. He also paved the way for them by introducing them to the local Malays and their acceptance by the Malay community saw Hiu Siew being appointed as the first Kapitan Cina of Kuala Lumpur.

The exact location of this trading centre has not been identified. However, it is said that when Yap Ah Loy became the third Kapitan, he appropriated the property of Liu Ngim Kong, the second Kapitan, who had himself appropriated the property of Hiu Siew. We know that Yap Ah Loy’s house was located near the river, at the present site of the Pacific Express Hotel, and it is possible that Hiu Siew’s property was at this same location and that Yap Ah Loy’s ‘market’ was originally Hiu Siew’s.

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Yap Ah Loy’s properties (around Medan Pasar) after they were rebuilt in brick following the 1881 fire. This was possibly also the original location of Hiu Siew’s properties. Source: Arkib Negara

The head panglima (commander) to Hiu Siew was Liu Ngim Kong. Liu had previously been panglima to the Kapitan Cina of Sungei Ujong and Yap Ah Loy had acted as his assistant during that time. When Hiu Siew passed away in 1861/62, Liu took over his role as Kapitan Cina as well as, purportedly, his private property. Liu invited Yap Ah Loy, who was Kapitan Cina at Sungei Ujong, to join him in Kuala Lumpur. The wealth of Kuala Lumpur induced Yap Ah Loy to move and he took over the position of Kapitan Cina after Liu’s death in 1868.

Ah Sze, in the meantime, had become among the wealthiest traders in Selangor. He also had mining concerns in Kanching which, together with Ampang (and Kuala Lumpur), were the only Chinese enclaves in Selangor north of Lukut at the time. Ah Sze was kingmaker. He had twice rejected offers to be Kapitan Cina: first after the death of Hiu Siew and again after the death of Liu. However, the selection of Liu Ngim Kong and Yap Ah Loy as the second and third Kapitans respectively were made in consultation with Ah Sze. The relatives of Liu Ngim Kong were unhappy with the ascension of Yap Ah Loy to the position of Kapitan and his appropriation of Liu’s property. Their attempt to redress the situation saw the murder of Ah Sze, seen as a powerful ally of Yap Ah Loy. This was done in order to weaken Yap’s position.

Kuala Lumpur was already a rich and flourishing settlement before Yap Ah Loy moved there. This was in large part due to the efforts of Hiu Siew, Ah Sze, and Liu Ngim Kong who come across as very capable leaders. However, information on them is scarce as they have largely been ignored in historical writings. One possible explanation for this is that the bulk of historical records come from the British whose official involvement in the Selangor state starts only after the treaty of 1874. They had involved interactions with Yap Ah Loy but only cursory dealings, if any, with the other three.

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Klang River, circa 1880. Source: KITLV Universiteit Leiden

Exhibition : One Malaysia, One Story

20160810_114635There is an on-going exhibition at Muzium Negara in conjunction with National Day 2016 titled One Malaysia, One Story. It showcases the history of the country from Emergency to Independence and includes the formation of the Malayan Union, formation of the Federation of Malaya, the elections of 1955, the formation of Malaysia, and the confrontation with Indonesia. A large part of the story is told via old photographs and this is the charm of the exhibition. Many of these photos are from the National Archives’ collection. Do head down to Muzium Negara – the exhibition runs until 30 September at Gallery 2, Department of Museums building.

Some photos at the exhibition:

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Campaigning for the 1955 elections
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Casting votes

 

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Ballot boxes being carried to the counting stations

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tunku Abdul Rahman at Dato’ Sir Tan Cheng Lock’s house before leaving for Padang Bandar Hilir, Malacca

 

Fruit Parachu Ceremony

by V. Jegatheesan

Fruit Parachu, or Parachu Buah Buahan as it is called in Malay, is the second form of ancestral worship that the Chitties observe in a year. The first is the Bhogi Parachu in January. This second Parachu is observed for a month between June 15th and July 15th. The time period is fixed and the individual can observe the Parachu anytime within this period. Many tend to observe it on a Sunday for convenience.

This article records a visit to Gajah Berang, Melaka, on 3rd July 2016 to observe the Fruit Parachu ceremony held in the home of Nadarajan Raja, an elder of the Chitty community.

The house was full of activity by the time we arrived at 2 pm. The ondeh ondeh was being prepared by Nadarajan’s wife and sister-in-law. Ondeh Ondeh is brown palm sugar wrapped in a rice paste coloured green from pandan (screwpine), then boiled and smothered with grated coconut. His brother, Raj, was preparing the chili to make the chili cucumber with onions. Others were frying fish, making the fish curry and the roe with belimbing (carambola). Those who finished some of these then started cutting the fruits. All this was done in a friendly atmosphere with a lot of bantering with each other. The main event, to call it that, is the making of the pulut tekan.

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Family members at rest and at work

The preparation of the day usually starts with making the pulut tekan. This is a white glutinous rice cake pressed firm, parts of which are with a blue tint to form a design. The whole process can take some seven hours. The rice is first cooked. Then the coconut milk is added and the rice steamed. A portion of this rice will have a blue colouring added. This colouring is from the blue coloured bunga telang (blue pea or butterfly pea). The rice is continually tested for the right consistency and when the rice is steamed to the right softness, it is drained and pressed into a 10 cm deep wooden square box. It is spread out in layers between the white and the blue rice to give the desired design. The inside of the box is lined with banana leaves. A wooden cover is placed on top and weights are laid on the cover to slowly press the contents of the box into a hard cake. The usual weights are two grindstones.

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The box with the pulut being pressed

full pic of pulut tekanWhen it is ready after some hours, the weights are removed and the box is taken and placed on the table. The hardness is tested and if not right, it is placed back under the weights. When ready, the top of the box is lifted off. The sides of the box are removed and this leaves the cake on the base. The banana leaves are then carefully removed.

An approximate 5 cm thick block has to be cut which will have a nice design of the white cake with blue colour. This is left to the individual, in this case, Shanmugam, another of Nadarajan’s brothers. The selected block of pulut is placed on a tray covered with a banana leaf cut to the shape of the tray. The blocks that are not used for the offering, are cut into smaller portions and placed in a bakul siah, a tiered lacquered wooden basket.

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The specially cut pulut blocks for the offering
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Seri Kaya
Kuih Ginggang
Kuih Ginggang

The seri kaya is also prepared earlier. This is coconut jam but a firmer type. A portion is cut and placed beside the pulut tekan for the offering. Another portion is placed in the bakul siah. A portion of the kuih ginggang, red and white layered cake is cut for the offering as well as a portion to be put in the bakul siah.

A few bakul siah are prepared in a similar way. The children then take these and present it to various close relatives or friends living in the neighbourhood. They, in turn, give some of their preparation if they are observing on the same day.

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Bakul Siah with the pulut and kuih

Nadarajan then got the front living room floor cleaned. One by one, Nadarajan and Shanmugam placed the various items on the floor.

The complete display of the offerings
The complete display of the offerings

The display is laid out on the left of the entrance of the house. Two red candles with a kuthu vilakku, (Indian oil lamp) in between are placed in the centre. On the centre of the oil lamp is a hibiscus flower for decoration. There is a brass bowl (chembu) with tulasi (holy basil) in between the candles. These are flanked by two young shaved coconuts with incense sticks stuck in as shown below.

DSCF2701aIn the front centre is a large banana leaf laid with the head on the right. The head is the top of the banana leaf, or the narrowing part. In the centre is a bowl of bunga rampai, scented flowers. There are also seven betel leaves lightly smeared with lime powder. In front on the left are seven cigarettes of tobacco wrapped in tobacco leaf and on the right are five modern cigarettes. This is seen below.

DSCF2697On the floor on the left, there is an arrangement of five cups and a teapot with tea. Next to this is a tumbuk (stone pestle and mortar) and an old wooden tepak sireh set (betel leaf and betel nut set). Three betel leaves are smeared with lime paste and wrapped with a piece of pekak. Pekak is a pink hard powder which turns red when eaten with the betel leaf. This wrap is then crushed in the tumbuk (mortar) and placed among these.

DSCF2695On the right is an arrangement of four cups with black coffee and one with Milo. There is also a tin of coffee with milk and a can Guinness stout.

DSCF2696In front of this is the tray of fruits, a tray of watermelon, the kuih,  a plate of fried noodles, kuih from the neighbours, some Indian savouries and three opened durian fruits.

The fruits that Nadarajan prepared were jackfruit, mata kuching (related to the longan or soapberry), mangoes, dragon fruit, jambu air (water apple or water rose apple), salak, watermelon, durians, grapes, apples, oranges and pears. Local fruits are used as much as possible but nowadays, common foreign fruits are also added. This also depends on the availability of the fruits.

DSCF2690The variety of kuih served were, the pulut tekan, seri kaya, kuih ginggang and ondeh ondeh. Offerings included some additional kuih sent by neighbours. These were the same glutinous rice but the white and blue being separate, angku (red tortoise cake), wajih (glutinous rice with sugary syrup and other local kuih.

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The seri kaya, pulut tekan, kuih ginggang and ondeh ondeh
Further variety made by others
Further variety made by others

The fruits and other edible items are usually the favourites of the ancestors and are presented in odd amounts.

In front of these are a brass bowl of vibuthi (wood ash), a brass bowl of water, an earthenware holder for smouldering charcoal and benzoin resin. This latter gives off smoke. There are also two pieces of kidney shaped wood.

Other items presented
Other items presented

The ceremony starts when the nearby temple bell is sounded off at 6.30pm. Nadarajan as the head of the household, takes the earthenware holder and goes to the outside of the house. He holds the holder up and invites his parents and ancestors to come and partake in the offerings.

He then comes into the house and shows the holder to the items on the floor, circling over all the offerings. Next, he goes to the pictures of his father, his aunt and his grandfather and circles the pictures with the holder. These pictures are decorated with the jasmine flowers and incense sticks. He comes back to the living room and places the holder on the floor. His brothers and other male relatives or close friends will do the same. This is followed by the females in the family and close friends.

Finally, Nadarajan will cut the young coconut open. With this the ceremony is over.

The guests are then invited to dinner. Nadarajan served rice with fried fish, fish gravy, watercress, chili cucumber and fish roe with belimbing.

Despite Malacca being a small place, Chitty practices vary from which part they come from. Those at Gajah Berang and Bacang use milk rice while those from Tranquerah use nasi lemak.

The kuih here are referred to as wet cakes. Others prepare dry cakes, as in not oily, such as kuih bakul, kuih bahulu, kuih kacang soya etc. Admittedly, there is now a mix which includes Nyonya, Malay and perhaps Portuguese kuih as well. This is the result of the many years of assimilation and intermarriages between them. It must be remembered that these groups have been together for 500 years.

Generally speaking, one wonders about the origin and the reason behind the use of the various items. One simple reason is that these are the things most commonly found in the vicinity. Some have magical or mystical properties ascribed to them from so long ago that the meaning or reason is lost today.

There must be some explanation as to why rituals are being performed and certainly not simply for the sake of doing something. Again the routine has caused the significance to be eroded with time. After all, the Hindu religion has been practised for thousands of years and the Chitties have been performing these for some 500 years. Many rituals have been performed by the temple priests only, as only they were educated in these matters. The ordinary folk followed and believed in what was done.

But now we live in an age where education levels have vastly increased resulting in individual thinking and questioning or in fact, re-inventing all things. While we continue to perform and believe in these rituals, it is now left to the current generation to study the religion, history and reintroduce the rituals so that when these are performed, it is done with a greater understanding and this in turn reinforces the faith.