Mon, 18 Sep 2000

Budhist parade brings Tangerang into a standstill

TANGERANG (JP): Thousands of Tangerang residents observed on Sunday the 12-yearly procession of the Chinese Supreme Goddess Awalokiteswara, or Kwan Im, a festival where Buddhists express their gratitude to the Goddess.

They flocked to the main road of the township since early morning to witness the 10-kilometer-long parade, which also offered numerous performances, from the Chinese Liong (Dragon dance) and Barongsay (Tiger dance) to local traditional arts such as East Java's Reog Ponorogo dance, Betawi's (native Jakartans) Tanjidor and Rebana music and Balinese dance.

The town's activities almost came to a halt as shops closed and public transportations suspended their operations to enjoy the rare procession. Meanwhile, people from different religions and races eagerly crowded the main road to cheer the parade.

The procession is held every 12 years during the Chinese dragon year. This year's procession was the 13th since the construction of the temple.

"The last parade was held in 1976 because 1988 procession was prohibited by the government because the year also saw the death of Yogyakarta monarch Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono IX," a committee member for this year's parade said.

She said the tradition began in 1844, when local Buddhists renovated and extended the Bon Tek Bio temple and placed the statues of the Gods and Goddess at the altar.

The statues of the Gods and Goddess were placed on a red wooden carriage called Kajoli to be presented during the procession. Dozens of youths carried the carriage on their shoulders.

During the procession, devotees honored the Goddess Kwan Im by joining their palms and chanting the name of the Goddess.

Many devotees tried to get close and touch the passing carriage as they believed that touching the carriage will bring Peng an or good luck and prosperity.

One day before the procession the statue of Hok Tek Tjeng Sin or Earth God, was carried around the town to guard the route that would be taken by the Goddess Kwan Im the next day.

The Sunday's procession started at 5 a.m., when the three statues of the Gods and Goddesses were brought down from the altar of the temple to be decorated, while thousands of followers said their prayers. Some of the followers then cleaned the altar.

The statue of Kwa Lam Ya, or the Judge, was adorned in a green cloth, Kwan Seng Tek Kun or General Kwan Kong in a red cloth and finally Kwan Im in a yellow cloth.

Dozens of women walked behind the statues, throwing flowers and chanting prayers. While some youngsters followed carrying big joss sticks, others beat drums.

At the rear end of the procession, two men, in black costumes, rode on a horse, while another horse followed without a horseman, as it was believed that General Kwan Kong was riding on it, guarding the procession.

Behind these 'heavenly soldiers', liong and barongsay dancers moved around and collected Ang Pau, or money placed inside red envelopes, from the crowd.

In contrast to past processions, this year's event was enlivened by the presence of dozens of youngsters of Chinese descent, wearing traditional clothes from Indonesia's 26 provinces and students carrying the national flag.

Members of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle's (PDI Perjuangan) Security Task Force and the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Muslim organization's civilian guards helped the police safeguard the parade.

The procession ended at around 11 a.m. when the whole group returned to the temple and placed the statues back on the altar. (dja)