Puja Pantai ritual to appease the spirits of the seas

 |Feb 22, 2018
Pic by Azrol Ali

This ritual started years ago when a tongkang (ship) carrying passengers and supplies was caught in a big storm off Carey Island coast, near to Tanjung Rhu which faces the Malacca Straits and the open seas.

None of the islanders thought that the ship would survive the storm. Imagine their surprise when the ship appeared to be towed to the shores by some unknown forces to safety during the storm.

Following that incident the villagers believed that Moyang Getah (Spirit of the Rubber) had saved the ship and its passengers. Although Moyang Getah has no relationship to rubber or rubber trees, the villagers believe the ship had been saved by a spirit.

At sunrise a day before, the villagers gather on the beach and drag boats out to the sea near the mouth of a river. There they throw rice berteh (popcorn of rice) into the water while the villages on the beach offer prayers at spirit houses along the river mouth.

The boats are then moved towards the sea about two kilometers to a site where they believed that another tongkang was not saved by Moyang Getah, had sunk.

At sunset the villagers would seek audience with their deeased loved ones at sanggar alters located near to their houses. They offer food and drinks to the deceased and talk with them.

Through the night the shaman and his helpers will engage with Moyang Getah and at the height of the trance, the whole village will march out towards the shores where the mahligai or the grand altar had stood for many years, to offer the grand feast.

The grand altar is almost submerged at high tide, so the celebration will only start when the water has completely subsided. Dances and song of praise accompany the shaman who in a trance is believed to be possessed by Moyang Getah and other spirits.

Food and drinks brought by the villagers are shared at the end of the festival.

The Mah Meri are animists who don’t believe in any particular god. They believe in spirits from the other world and believe that there exist another world or world of spirits, parallel to the world we live in and on Hari Moyang, Puja Pantai day which falls after the Chinese Lunar New Year, is when the door to this other world opens.

Believers may seek protection and forgiveness, exchange information, ask for better fortunes and special wishes from the inhabitants of the other world on this day. The only other way of communication to the other world is through their dreams. They believe that dreams are real and contain messages from the other world.

The time cycle for each day of the spirit world is half of our world. One spirit day is 12 hours. That is why most spirit related ritual or festivities must end at noon. The size of offerings to the spirits too is smaller than usual.

Source : http://mmcv.org.my