Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Goddess of Mercy Temple















Goddess of Mercy Temple

If one is in need, sad or just troubled, a safe haven awaits in the form of Kuan Yin Teng also called the Pitt Street Temple. Although the temple is named after the Goddess of Mercy, it is actually dedicated to two goddesses, Kuan Yin and Ma Chor Poh. Kuan Yin is the Goddess of Mercy, a kind deity who watches over all who are good and kind. This deity is to the Taoist and Buddhist what Saint Anne is to the Christians. Ma Chor Poh is the patron saint of seafarers and also known as Mother of the Hearth to Taoists.

This temple was founded in 1801 on land given by the East India Company and originally named Kong Hock Keong or the Cantonese-Hokkien Temple, as it was jointly established by both clans. But just as mercy knows no bounds, the temple has come to be known by the name of its patron saint and its devotees include Chinese from any clan and all walks of life. The most popular Chinese temple in Penang, it is congested on the full moon days of the1st and 15th day of the Chinese lunar month, holy days for the observance of precepts. On the three enlightenment days of Kuan Yin, the 19th day of the 2nd, 6th and 9th Chinese lunar month, the whole temple is brimming with devotees and visitors who turn up for worship and also to join in the celebrations and watch the puppet shows and Chinese operas staged on the temple's open grounds.
The cobbled square in front of the temple is a comforting sight with the burning of kim and gin (gold and silver paper), feeding of a lively flock of pigeons, burning of incense and joss paper and also with the bustling about by the temple hawkers. It is also here that the followers of Hare Krishnan distribute food free to the homeless, beggars and the hungry regardless of race. At a corner of the same square is a well, shaped in an octagon, which was once a public well for the Chinese community.

It is interesting to know that although mercy and heavens know no bounds, the devotees of the temple consider the temple to be of important geomantic significance. When the Malayan Railway was built in 1907 with a huge clock tower, the Chinese community saw it as a conspiracy against them as the feng shui of the temple would then undergo a change! But a more likely explanation would be that the temple's pair of stone lions who loved to play out at the sea's edge at night would then be without their enjoyment.

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