The Jakarta Post
Tri Dharma worshipers burn joss papers as a symbol of gratitude during Pao Oen prayers at Tien Kok Sie temple, Pasar Gede, Surakarta, Central Java, on Sunday. (JP/Ganug Nugroho)
A series of Chinese New Year, or Imlek 2569, celebrations kicked off with the release of 999 sparrows at the Tien Kok Sie temple in Pasar Gede in Surakarta, Central Java on Sunday.
The release was carried out by Tri Dharma worshipers -- comprising Buddha, Tao and Kong Hucu -- under the Pao Oen ritual. The worshipers also released the same number of catfish in the Bengawan Solo River.
"The number 999 is considered a lucky number. It is believed to carry blessings for a better life in the year to come. The release of birds and fish are also a way to maintain a good ecosystem," said Chandra Halim, the temple’s public relations officer.
Worshipers release birds at the temple. The Pao Oen ritual is to atone for sins ahead of the Chinese New Year. (JP/Ganug Nugroho)
"Pao Oen ritual," he continued, "is the Tri Dharma worshipers' tradition of atonement for the sins committed in a year. It is also a way to send gratitude to God for the blessings and goodness given during the year of the rooster.
“We wish that the year of the dog in 2018 will bring everyone a better life. The release of birds and fish symbolize getting rid of all bad things. As a result, we are able to step into the New Year with a new and better life. That is the moral of the ritual."
The birds and fish were donated by worshipers.
The final ritual of Pao Oen is the shower procession carried out by the monks to purify the body. (JP/Ganug Nugroho)
"Releasing birds or fish is meant to ward off bad luck and to attract good luck. I released 50 birds for today's ritual," said Cintya, 40. The Surakarta resident bought 50 sparrows at Depok market for Rp 2,000 (less than 50 cents) each.
"Our wish is to be protected from danger and stay healthy. Releasing the birds is as good as saving them. So hopefully we will be saved by God in return," Cintya added.
Following the ritual of releasing the birds and fish, the Tri Dharma worshipers burned joss papers to symbolize gratitude. Chandra explained that the tradition was to offer prayers to the ancestors so that they could have a peaceful afterlife.
The Pao Oen ritual was closed with a shower procession carried by the monks. This procession is meant to purify the body in the hope that Tri Dharma worshipers enter the Chinese New Year in a clear state of mind, body and soul. They also conducted a prayer for Zao Jun the Kitchen God. According to Chandra, the people believed that the Kitchen God was the one who took notes of man's good and bad deeds on Earth. Closing in on Imlek, the God will ascend to deliver the notes to the ruler of the skies.
"My prayer goes for the health of my family and our prosperity in the coming years. Hopefully life will be good for us," said Herry Santosa, 50, a resident of Kauman area, Surakarta. (mut/kes)