Friday, 27 December, 2019 10:41:40 PM

Taoism in Sabah  >  Temple of the Eight Immortals  >  Datuk Keramat

拿督公 Datuk Keramat

This is quite a common sight in many places where there is a shady tree near a junction. The yellow building is actually a shrine meant for the 'Datuk Gong' deity, regarded by its devotees as the God of Wealth.

Chinese : 拿督公 Na Tuk Kong (Malay Tua Pek Kong 馬來人大伯公)
Malay : Datuk Keramat

Datuk Gong is a Sino-Malay spirit, also known as Na Tuk Kong (拿督公) in Chinese, or Datuk Keramat in Malay.

There are also female versions of Datuk Gong, known as Datuk Nenek or Na-du-nai-nai (拿督奶奶). Nenek is the Malay word for “grandmother”. When praying to the Datuk Nenek, some of the devotees actually offered her cologne or gu-long-shui (古龙水) and make-up, reflecting the Chinese belief in afterlife and the humanistic nature of gods.

Datuk’ is a Malay word while ‘Gong’ (公) is a Chinese honorific title often used for gods and deities. He is often worshipped for wealth, peace and harmony. You may also find the Datuk Gong shrines at factories and offices where it is believed that praying to him diligently every morning and night ensures the smooth running of the business. Some Datuk Gong statues are dressed in songkok and sarong and the shrine is shaped like a typical kampung house with stairs leading up to the altar. The offerings include incense, fruits like the banana and pineapple, nasi kunyit (tumeric rice), curry chicken, cigars, cigarettes, pinang and sireh. Devotees abstain from eating pork before prayers. Individuals who pray to him ask for lucky numbers to buy at the lottery draws such as Toto, Magnum 4-D and Big Sweep. They will also make vows which need to be fulfilled once their prayers are answered. Those who strike it rich will built a bigger temple for Datuk Gong. Communication with Datuk Gong can happen in 3 ways, i.e. (a) through spirit mediums, (b) premonition or (c) appear in a dream.

This practice is commonly found in Malaysia and Singapore.

Judging by the number Datuk Gong temples I see around here, I'm can conclude that either (a) there are many who have struck it rich or (b) they hope to hit the jackpot which is ever increasing and so tempting to the gamblers.

Datuk Keramat

The religious belief of the Datuk Keramat worship can be found in Malaysia, Singapore and along the Strait of Malacca. It is a fusion of pre-Islamic spirit belief, Sufi saint worship and Chinese folk religion.


According to local Malay legend, all Datuks were once human and were considered the "Forefathers of The Land" and sometimes also known as the "Spirit of The Land" or Na Tuk Kong (earth spirits), as the locals would call them.


Around the Malaysian countryside some small, red-coloured painted shrines by the roadside or under a tree can be found, and these shrines are usually worshipped by the residents living around the neighbourhood. The shrines are normally of a fusion Chinese-Malay design, with Islamic elements such as the crescent moon decorations. Inside the simple room, a small, decorated statue is venerated, depicting the datuk. Around the statue offerings are brought, sometimes on a small altar in front of the datuk statue.

It is believed that there are a total of nine types of Datuks, and that each of them were once great warriors and expert in Malay local martial arts, the Silat except for the last Datuk. They were also known to possess great magical powers. Worshippers usually pray to Datuks for protection, good health, and good luck, and sometimes seek divine help to overcome their problems.
Below are the nine Datuks named according to their seniority from the eldest to the youngest:
1. Datuk Panglima Ali (Ali)
2. Datuk Panglima Hitam (Black)
3. Datuk Panglima Harimau (Tiger)
4. Datuk Panglima Hijau (Green)
5. Datuk Panglima Kuning (Yellow)
6. Datuk Panglima Putih (White)
7. Datuk Panglima Bisu (Mute)
8. Datuk Panglima Merah (Red)
9. Datuk Panglima Bongsu (Youngest)

Worship Ritual

Worshippers usually offer fresh flowers, sireh (betelnuts), rokok daun (local hand rolled cigarettes), sliced pinang (areca nuts) and local fruits. An important part of the praying ritual is also to burn some kemenyan (benzoin - made of a local gum tree, when burnt will emit a smoky fragrant smell).
If their prayers are answered, the worshippers usually return to the shrine and make offerings or hold a Kenduri (feast).
The kenduri items usually consist of yellow saffron rice, lamb or chicken curries, vegetables, pisang rastali (bananas), young coconuts, rose syrup, cherrots (local cigars) and local fruits.
Pork items are considered impure and are therefore totally forbidden in a shrine; visitors are also asked to not show disrespect when inside or around a shrine.


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Places of worship in Tawau Division