Fewer going on annual pilgrimage to Kusu

Fewer going on annual pilgrimage to Kusu

It made for an idyllic getaway off the south coast of Singapore.

Families frolicked in the waves and had picnics by the waterfront, while fishermen cast their reels, waiting to snag a good catch.

Elsewhere, a crowd gathered to watch a monkey hanging nonchalantly on a branch.

Others were mesmerised by the tortoises swimming in a sanctuary. Save for a faint whiff of incense lingering in the air, there was hardly any indication that the annual Kusu pilgrimage season was under way when The Straits Times visited the tortoise-shaped island yesterday.

The tradition, which coincides with the ninth lunar month and is ongoing from Oct 5 to Nov 2, appears to be losing its lustre over the years

Some 47,000 devotees made the trip during last year's season, said the Sentosa Leisure Group, which manages the 8.5ha island 5.6km away from Singapore. Mr Ryden Fang, general manager of Singapore Island Cruise & Ferry Services, which exclusively runs scheduled ferry trips to the island, said there has been a drop in visitorship of about 5,000 people each year since 2007.

More than 136,000 people reportedly made the pilgrimage in 2001, while in its heyday in the 1990s, more than 200,000 thronged the island during the season each year. As of yesterday - nine days into this year's pilgrimage season - about 14,000 people have made the trip so far. Upon disembarkation, devotees usually first visit the Da Bo Gong Temple, built in 1923 and which houses deities Tua Pek Kong (God of Prosperity) and Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy). They then make a 152-step climb up a hillock, where three keramats, or holy shrines of Malay saints, reside.

At both sites, devotees pray for blessings for marriage, fertility, health, prosperity and peace of mind, among others.

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