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Streets Processions in Penang

Street processions in Penang are typical of Asian street processions. Many of them are held throughout the year. Some of them are based on religious beliefs (either for celebration or funerary) and some are held annually to commemorate certain events. They are part of why cultural Penang heritage is unique if they were to be compared to America Latin Mardi Gras, for example.

There are always reasons for the people in Penang to organize and participate in such events. Thaipusam street procession by Hindu devotees, for example, is the most famous.

a Hindu devotee carrying milk as part of the Thaipusam ritual
A Hindu devotee carrying milk as
part of the ritual during Thaipusam

It draws visitors from around the world to witness and also to join in. It is the time for them to see and experience first hand the rituals, the customs and everything related to Thaipusam held in Penang.

Contrary to most people's perception, Thaipusam is not all about body piercing to atone for the sins committed or to pay the Gods for fulfilled wishes.

The street processions in Penang associated with Thaipusam have much more elements to it.

Visitors are even invited to eat the vegetarian meals at the temples.

 Everyone is welcome to join the procession which sometimes starts before dawn depending on which days of the celebration.

For Nine Emperor's Gods festival, the street processions in Penang are done on the last night of the festival, when the spirit of the Gods is let go to the sea in the ceremonial ship made out of paper and lit with lanterns. The procession usually starts from major Chinese temples and ends at the beach or the seaside.

Maulidur Rasul celebration for the Muslim is the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. Street procession is done also as part of the celebration. Usually a group of kompang players (hand held drums), with a procession following, chanting the praise to Allah and the Prophet Muhammad. It is usually done in mid-morning, covering several streets in the town or villages.

Fierce looking fan dancers
Fierce looking dancers with red fans can be part of a street procession in Penang

Sometimes a street procession is also done during the Al-Asyura day (the tenth day of the month of Muharram according to the Islamic calendar), to commemorate the exodus of Muhammad followers from Mecca to Medina.

During the St. Anne festival, a patron saint for a church in Bukit Mertajam, there is also a street procession as part of its celebration.

Besides all these, annual events in Penang like Pesta Pulau Pinang have street processions too.

This festival is done all month long each December.

The purpose of the month-long event is mostly as a catalyst to the local businesses, especially those who are involved in tourism.

Of course, Malaysian National Day also has the local version of street procession in Penang. George Town also has its City Day when it was recognized as a city by QEII in 1957.

Floats are common during street processions. So are traditional show like Chingay (balancing acts using massive, tall flagpoles), the Chinese lion dance, kolattam which is based on Silambam (stick fighting martial arts by the Indian), Pencak Silat (Malay martial art) and also giant drums performance. During the floral festival, floats are beautifully decorated with flowers and fun statues. Adorned with fair maidens in beautiful costumes. We  could see almost all of these during the celebration of Penang Heritage City.

Cordoned street area to allow for the procession to pass through
Cordoned street area to allow for
the procession to pass through

All processional streets are usually determined a few days or even months before.

The police and enforcement bodies will approve which streets are to be cordoned and the routes that are to be taken.

Street processions in Penang are peaceful affairs, full of energy, fun and excitement. The atmosphere is amazing. It has to be experienced to be believed.

Decent behavior are mostly observed. There are no lewd acts allowed, to the norm of traditional Asian culture.

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Silambam Nilaikalakki is an ancient Indian form of martial arts. It's an almost extinct form of Indian martial arts that is still practiced in Penang.

Silambam Nilaikalakki

Silambam Nilaikalakki

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