Parchu Bhogi: past, present and future converge in time-honoured ritual

Yesterday, in the 600-year-old Kampung Chetti village on Jalan Gajah Berang in Melaka, it was reported that members of the Melaka Chetti are working hard to support Parchu Bhogi.

Held on the eve of Thai Pongal, Parchu Bhogi is an ancient ritual to honor the dead. The Melaka Chetti are descendants of Indian traders from the Coromandel Coast of Tamil Nadu, who first set foot here in the 15th century and married local women. Their native language is Malay.

Speaking to FMT Lifestyle, resident K Vimala Devi Rajah explained why the village continues to practice its ancient traditions. “Young people are rarely among us these days, so this is a way to educate them, to tell them ‘your ancestors came from this part of India, and this is what they did’,” said the 56-year-old.

“When we prepare Parchu Boghi, we bring them back, we gather and train them in these traditions.” In fact, this celebration usually includes family gatherings and parties. The preparation of the city actually begins a month before, at the beginning of what they call “flowering moon.”

“We get up early in the morning, take a shower, open our doors and decorate the house with flowers. We will also pray and ask for God’s blessings,” Vimala said.

“During this month, we believe that the ancestors are in their weakness because, as we say, “pintu syanga buka” (the door of heaven opens) and they will come to visit our house.”

Then, a week before Parchu Bhogi, 30 families living in Kampung Chetti clean the graves of their ancestors in a respectful manner reminiscent of the Qingming festival held by the Chinese community. In Parchu Bhogi itself, in the evening, 21 dishes that used to be owned by the ancestors and mothers of the village are prepared and arranged on banana leaves on the floor of the family house.

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