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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Offer some goodies to the GHOST!!

Last weekend, there were so much of noise outside my flat, due to some Chinese stage shows & Auctions following it, for the Hungry Ghost Festival. It just reminded me of my early childhood days of listening to LR.Easwari songs during some nearby temple festivals in Madurai.

Normally, this month-long festival takes place during the months of August-September. (to put it precisely, from 15th day of the 7th lunar month).

The background story was that a devoted son who observed his mother's sufferings in the hell, got disturbed by other hungry ghosts when he tried to feed his mother. So, he started making all kinds of food & offerings to those ghosts, as per Buddha's instructions. From then onwards, those hungry ghosts didn't disturb his mother and the tradition started.

You can find many similarities between this Chinese festival & our Indian traditional festivals. I have listed few, which I observed.... Interesting similarties.

1) Burning of Incense sticks, Offerings of fruits & other items (including alcoholic drinks)

2) Burning of 'Hell money' (paper notes) and similar paper replicas of objects like cars/computers/mobile phones etc., The belief is that the ghosts will enjoy the life after their departure. One of my friend told that the business on these 'hell money' used to cross $10 million, every year here. I thought, it is too small considering the papers they burn during this month.This paper burning, reminds me of our Bogi festival.

3) The stage street shows including chinese opera performances, reminded me of all those drama & music troupes' street performaces at nights.

4) The grand dinner and the auction follows these type of street shows, during which they auction wide range of items to raise funds for more offerings to spirits. On my personal front, I had visited some of our Hindu temples, where they auction sarees / gold after some festivals. It is a pleasure to participate in it and take something on auction.

5) Chinese gambling interests are well known to everybody. So, why to leave it? I had observed the local residents playing Mahjong game, during the leisure hours (mostly during night times). You can find more details of this game, here. Reminded me of the card games, during our marriage sessions / few other festivities.

Much more interesting things to follow - The Superstitions, strictly followed during this Hungry Ghost festival...

- Not to move, renovate or marry during this period. ('aadi' maasam..)
- Stay away from swimming, as it is believed that the water spirits will drag these little ones into the water and drown them.
- Avoid old trees. It is believed that the spirits will hide there. (reminds me of the stories around our 'pulia marams' - tamarind trees!!!!)
- Children are advised to return home early and not to wander around alone at night. This belief is due to the reason that the wandering ghosts might possess children. ('Kaathu Karuppu' adichida pothu, ...)

The world is so small that we could notice the similarities between the emerging giants' traditions (I mean Chinese & Indian). The only difference is the contents & presentation.

Pic Courtesy: the-inncrowd.com

169th post


Blogger tt_giant said...

Interesting news. I have never heard about this festival.

adhu seri?... when you mentioned "I have listed few, which I observed.... Interesting similarties. 1) Burning of Incense sticks, Offerings of fruits & other items (including alcoholic drinks),".. where do we offer alcohol?

Sunday, August 21, 2005 6:36:00 PM  
Blogger Ram.C said...

deepak.. I hv heard about offering of 'toddy' (panang kallu) to some deities in the village side. this is more or less like the alcohols. Isn't it?

Sunday, August 21, 2005 6:45:00 PM  
Blogger Kaps said...


You are right....I have heard of places where alcohol / arrack / liquor is offered to some gods. I think the women folk are not allowed to come near these kind of deities.....only the men are allowed near the vigrahams.

The Chinese craze for gambling ceases to amaze me. I could hear marble sound from my neighbours house most of the time. They keep playing with this from morning to evening....like a full time job. they hardly speak to each other, but keep playing for long hours.

Sunday, August 21, 2005 10:19:00 PM  
Blogger Ramana Siddharth said...

hi ram.isnt the singapore govmnt strict abt pollution?as in how do they allow the burning during the hungry ghosts festival?btw did u know the reason our ancestors made up stories abt ghosts in trees?it was to protect them(the trees) and thus prevent deforestation!it was an awesome conservation method.

Monday, August 22, 2005 2:15:00 AM  
Blogger Ram.C said...

Kaps.. I believe certain places are allowed for these type of games and some places / occasions are classified illegal. But, U R right. Sometimes, the game's noise irritates.

Siddhart.. They allow burning in a controlled manner. The local town councils provide small enclosed tins, within that only people need to burn. Not everywhere. If you talk about the picture in the post, they might have been approved by the local town council exclusively.

I have heard about our Indian ghost story. that's a great idea.. But nowadays, tree hunters are cleverer than the so-called ghosts, that's the sad part.

Monday, August 22, 2005 2:25:00 AM  
Blogger ada-paavi!!!! said...

ram there are bound to be similarities between our festivals and chinese primarily because buddhism drew a lot from hindusim, though rejected it philosophy it drew from hindu forms and manners of worship, thats why ur likely to find similarities.

Monday, August 22, 2005 3:39:00 AM  
Blogger Chakra Sampath said...

very interesting news and a good comparison.

u r right in saying that some village gods are being offered saarayam or kall.. i hav heard abt that too.

Monday, August 22, 2005 5:09:00 AM  
Blogger TJ said...

Ungoorla thiruvizhavaa!! Kalakkunga!
Do we hve
1. rattanam and poi kaal kudhirai.
2. karagattam oyilattan
3. universal star xyz narpani mandram thanner pandhal
4. kanji oothing and koozh oothing..


Monday, August 22, 2005 5:14:00 AM  
Blogger Raju said...

Oh Ram.. those street festivals in local Amman temples in Madurai is still a nightmare for me.. Not only during the Aug-Sept, even during an important month like April (Board final exams time), those loud-speakers were terrible..

I remember, all through my SSLC exams, right in front of my home there was this temple and morning to night, there were looooud songs.. Worse, the day before my final exam, there was a musical night (got myself closed in a room, which was still only 30 feet from the stage, with cotton plugs and all and it was a night-out..) ... Ufff.. unforgettable experience..

Monday, August 22, 2005 6:48:00 AM  
Blogger Ganesh said...

very very interesting.

Monday, August 22, 2005 8:30:00 AM  
Blogger Ram.C said...

vatsan.. U R right,, it is possible for a derivation thru Buddhism

chakra.. yes..

TJ.. We miss those you hv listed.... If at all, they were there??? hmmm...

GP.. Fortunately, during my peak years' exam periods we had shifted our house to the outskirts of the city. So, I was not disturbed that much. I am not sure about the prevailing situation now!!!!


Monday, August 22, 2005 3:20:00 PM  
Blogger Aatma said...

Interesting stuff Ram - and the similarities are mind boggling - truly world is a small place.

Monday, August 22, 2005 4:45:00 PM  
Blogger vee-jay said...

enakku idhula andha dinner section than pidikkadhu.... thanga mudiyadhu!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005 4:23:00 AM  
Blogger mitr_bayarea said...

Hi Ram,
i landed at your blog from someone else's..am new to the blog community.

Interesting comparison and parallels between the Chinese and Indian traditions.

Brought back some old memories of living in Chennai hearing LR Easwari's, Tiruvilayadhal, Seerkali Govindarajan etc.....

Tuesday, August 23, 2005 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger visithra said...

They celebrate Navarathri as well. Theres a lot more similarities. They too observer Pournami and ammavasai.

Culture activities concerning religious rites are never objected in Msia and Sing. Though when a chariot procession is to leave they will need to get a permit from local municipal and the police. Though when the haze landed on this part of the world, the religious leaders itself asked that the burning be lessened.

If you go to penang after thaipusam you will see the streets painted with kolams.

On the day of the ghost festival - ppl are advised not to go out as the souls will be out doing mischief.

Vatsan budhism is different from the Chinese religion (the 2 major ones being Confuciusim and taoism). Not all chinese are Buddhist.

Then god they place a lot of importance to ancestors.


they have masked dancers and poi kall kudhirai as well

also they have a monkey god similar to anjeneyar

Thursday, August 25, 2005 1:08:00 AM  
Blogger Ram.C said...

aatma.. I agree

VeeJay.. But, I don't know if you will like the assortment.

Mitr.. seems you are enjoying ur old memories.

Visithra.. thanks for your detailed views.. I had not been to Penang yet, for Thaipusam. Last year my parents went there and enjoyed the festival.. I may plan soon...

Thursday, August 25, 2005 1:14:00 AM  

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