The Festival of Beach Worshipping, also known as Serving the Sea Ghost or Blessing the Beach, is a popular ceremony among the farmers and fishermen in eastern part of West Malaysia, especially in Kelantan and Terengganu, before the fishing season. In Melaka it is known as Safar Bath Festivity.
An albino caribou is normally slaughtered and its carcass drifted into the sea to calm the spirit of the sea so as not to endanger the fishermen when catching fish. This ceremony is normally held for days with the villagers setting up camps and stage filled with games activities.
DURING THE CEREMONY
The ceremony begins with smearing the caribou with sea water before slaughtered during dusk on the third day. The meat is cooked to be served to the attendees while its head and skin are filled with coconut husk and then sewn together to make it afloat when drifted into the sea.
Various side activities are staged like traditional theatres of menora, mak yong and puppet show, accompanied with music. The medicine man and his assistant produce a boat made of rice flour, palm leaves and the caribou carcass to the spirit of the sea by drifting it into the open sea. Then they return to the beach and participate in the feast activity.
PURPOSE AND AIM
This festival is as a healing for illnesses believed to be caused by Satan. It is also held due to continuous calamities at sea or on land like death, accidents, reduced catch, contagious illness, and the like. The festival is also held if the medicine man has a dream that the spirit of the sea or the sea ghost requests for such festival.
This ceremony is also held according to the belief that there is a big power or ability of the spirit or genies that live in a certain place to empower humans lives that can cause illnesses, storms and move fishes away from the fishermengood fortune, and so these beings are coaxed by feeding them and the like.
PERSPECTIVE ACCORDING TO ISLAMIC TEACHINGS
When a person assumes that there is a power in a being then the person is treating the power as the same with that of Allah(God) whilst the one with the greatest power is only Allah. Giving this similar treatment is considered as polytheism.
THE GOOD AND POSITIVE VALUES
Positively, this ceremony functions as a gathering for farmers and fishermen to loosen out after the harvesting season for farmers, while for the fishermen is to rest during the big wave season. In this gathering they take the chance to discuss about issues related to the development of their own sector, like good seeds, threats from harmful animals, and the like. As such, ceremonies like this Festival of Beach Worshipping acts as a centre for important information exchange to the public due to the absence of public communication system during those days.
After World War II various articles in the local dailies degraded this ceremony as wasting money and against Islamic teachings. The Kelantan government in 1959 was against the ceremony and illegalised the practices of which was followed by other states in Peninsular Malaysia.
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