Every year on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, the Dragon Boat festival is celebrated as a three day event by the Cetiya Bodhi Sasana, 金兴宫, in Bintan Island, Indonesia and involves the temple’s main deity, the Supreme Lord of the North, 玄天上帝.
The temple’s celebration has made it the focus point of Dragon Boat Festival for the river side community and has attracted visitors and pilgrims from other areas in Indonesia as well as international visitors from Singapore, Malaysia and the region.
River comes to life
The first day of celebration starts with the ritual preparations including a spirit medium. As preparations were being made, the lion dance performances and fire crackers attracted more and more visitors.
Almost all of them will first pay respect to the deities and the altars were soon full of offerings. Apart from the usual, longevity peaches and bean paste pastry, there were of course Zongzi the festive food of the Dragon Boat festival.
The organizers had to prepare the site for three days of Dragon Boat racing by inviting a spiritual sedan and the spirit medium to a floating shrine not too far away from an ornate archway where the dragon boat race will start and end. As they reach the archway, zong zi were being toss into the river in memory of Qu Yuan.
Dragon boat race
As the time for Dragon boat race approaches, many groups of spectators began chartering private boats to watch the competition as close as they could possibly get creating a scene of excitement.
Those who remain on land lined the entire stretch of river bank and on the roofs of buildings to watch the excitement.
The competing dragon boats began from the archway towards a flotilla of supporters waiting to follow their respective dragon boats back to the end point.
Every round of competition is accompanied by cheers, drums and gongs attracting even more spectators.
Dragon Boat Festival and Getai
When the dragon boat race ended, it was the start of another major event; the getai, 歌台, performance. Almost a thousand people were seated in the temple’s theatre watching the getai performance by Indonesian, Malaysian and Singapore artistes.
Cetiya Bodhi Sasana’s Dragon boat event is more than just a celebration. It reflected a network of social organizations in Bintan and even the region working together and contributing to the success of the event.
Meanwhile, participating in the events gave residents a sense of community and a means of cultural transfer to the next generation.
Maybe this is one of Bintan Island and even Indonesia's best kept secret?
Event date: 6 June 2011, Monday,
5th day of the 5th lunar month,
year of the rabbit.