Saturday, December 22, 2012

Datok Kong [The Three Kusu Kramats] @ Kusu Island [Singapore]

A trip to Kusu Island would not be completed if you decide not to climb up the tiring 152 steps to the three sacred Muslim shrines (known as keramats).

Contrary to the signboard above, the hill housed not one but three shrines as i mentioned in my opening paragraph. I shall touch on the term Datok Gong shortly to clarify common misconception on this Malaysia / Singapore deity.

Firstly, be prepared to climb! Compared to the famous Tianmenshan in China which boasts 999 steps, the journey up to the top of this Kusu hill was not as tiresome as i expected it to be, given my lack of stamina.

Obsessive 4D punters can consider jotting down some of the 4-digit numbers scribbled on the yellow fortification; this might be able to make the climb less exhausting.

For those who need a rest or unfortunately encounter a rainstorm, you may consider seeking refuge in the shelter. Note: the recent weather has proven that such a small shelter can do little to protect you from the wrath of the rain god.

Reaching the top! As you can see, the structure was reminiscent of the days back in the 1970s to 1980s where such zinc-roofed houses were very common in Singapore. 

In an article written by Lu Caixia, research associate at the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre, ISEAS Singapore and regional editor for The Newsletter, there were records to show that "pilgrimage to Kusu began as early as 1813"!

By the way, the nearer you get to the shrines, the more 4D numbers you can see. At this point, i guess 4D punters can give up as there must have been thousands and thousands of such numbers!

Although it was not my first time to the kramats, i could not remember the practices required to go through the prayers and blessings since it was usually handled by the great mother. Nonetheless, the caretakers of the kramats were really helpful to answer your queries, if any.

Notices like the above were not helpful as i had difficulties grasping its content; something about the joss-sticks and burning them in the furnace. In usual Chinese customers, we stick the joss-sticks in incense holders and we don't burn them in the furnace!

From the explanation of the lady caretaker, i understand that these bags held stones and devotees would throw them as high as possible; the higher they stay in the trees, the more likely you would attain your wishes. The easier (and convenient) way out was to engage the service of temple helpers, who would climb up the trees and tie your bag of wishes to the branches.

The main shrines of the supposedly pious family; that of Syed Abdul Rahman, Nenek Ghalib (mother) and Puteri Fatimah (sister) from the 19th century.

Since this sacred ground houses Muslim saints revered by many Chinese hoping for good luck, wealth, marriage, good health and even fertility for childless couples, it is considered extremely disrespectful to bring any pork product to the keramats.

In the past, i have always assumed that Datok Kong (or Datuk Gong in some cases) is a singular male deity and i put on a face of extreme skepticism when i noticed the words "Datok Nenek". 

I was wrong of course; according to wikipedia, Datuk Gong is considered as a local guardian spirit and it is not limited to just one person. In the Chinese context, it would be similar to the earth deities like Tu Di Gong [土地公] and Tu Di Po (土地婆).

Even though the facade seemed vibrant with a splash of fresh yellow paint, donations were encouraged for needed repair works.  

Blessings by Datok Nenek can be received over a simple incantation by this man, who would proceed to give you a yellow string afterwards. I shall consider this seriously if i could not find a job within a month!  

The yellow strings were given as blessings and i was under the impression that receivers would bring them home and wear them as long as possible! However, i noticed quite a number of people tying the strings on trees. 

It was in fact quite a sight as the strings were like rabbles of yellow butterflies in the midst of greenery and it was extremely surreal when they fluttered whenever there was wind. 

As if mere praying was not sufficient, some devotees even resorted to writing down their wishes on the leaves next to the holy shrines! 

A final look at the Kusu kramats as i made my way down. Please be assured that a full post on Kusu island is in the works and it should be ready within a week! :)

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