Not far from where I was staying, which is located in the street of Lebuh Gereja George Town, is the Little India area. It was only a ten minute walk from where I was staying. In this area, between Lebuh Queen and Chulia street, stands the oldest Hindu Temple in Penang, Sri Mahamariamman. It was built in 1833, and is dedicated to the god Subramaniam. It fascinating that the time of construction is only three years apart with the Sri Mahariamman Temple in Singapore’s Chinatown.
After walking around Penang, I usually rest here while listening to the sounds. The street corner here is one of my favourite places in Penang. The priests would usually hold a ritual prayers at nine in the evening. From what I have read, they call this ritual Ardha Jāmam. There are four ritual in total, which are Santhi held in 7.30 in the morning, Ucchikālam held at 12.00 in the afternoon, Sāyaratchai held at 18.30 in the afternoon, and Ardha Jāmam held at nine in the evening. The temple closes right after the last ritual, and when the people leave the temple. The temple will open the next morning and follow the same pattern.
The ritual is accompanied by unique sounds. One of which is the sound of the bell rung by the priest, genta, while holding the ritual. The bell cannot be separated with the daily prayers of the Hindu people. Sound has become a sacred sign, one of the means of connecting humans with the gods. I recorded this on the night of March 12th, 2019. At night, the streets of Lebuh Queen and Chulia turns calm with the decrease of vehicles around.
The landscape of Goerge Town is very interesting. There are many communities with different backgrounds in this small town, such as Melayu, Indian-Muslim, Little India, Amenia, Christians, Chinese, even the Jetties clan. A friend, who has lived here for decades, told me that even there are many communities in this small island, the people here live in their own circles, and rarely interact with each other. His statement sparked curiosity in my mind. Of course, I only have a few weeks here, which is too short to learn about the communities here in Penang. However, I hope that this recording is enough to give an image of how rich their culture is.