Datuk Gong is also known as Datok Gong, Natu Gong (Natuk Kong) or Datuk Keramat / Keramat Datuk.
When the early Chinese migrated southward to the Malay Archipelago in the 15th century, they brought along their culture of Taoist Deities Worship to these lands.
They realized that to ensure security & prosperity in foreign lands,they have to enlist the help, protection and pay respect to the local guardian spirits and spirits of nature, alongside with their own Taoist deities.
The Chinese immigrants began to worship local spirit holy men, commonly called Datuk or Dato, meaning “chief” or “lord” in the Malay language,which soon became known as Datok or “Natoh” (or “Nadu”(拿督) in standard Mandarin). The suffix “gong” which means “lord” in Chinese was added to “Nadu” & hence Datok Gong or “Nadugong”,the Malay Deity, which is found only in Singapore,Malaysia & parts of Indonesia.
Short Video on Datok Kong
Around the Malaysian countryside some small, yellow-colour or red-colour 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.
The Statue of Datok Kong (拿督公 Nadu-Gong) is commonly represented by a Malay man dressed in Traditional Malay Costume,wearing a formal Songkok (hat) on the head, Kris (Malay sword) & other traditional Malay court regalia & ceremonial objects would also be placed on the altar.
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)
When the Taoist Medium is in trance of Datok Gong, he will say prayers in Quaran Verses and speaks in Malay.
Datuk Gong Worship or similar in the Malay Community
Datok Gong Worship is not supposed to be practiced by the Malay Muslims. However, when in time of trouble, few Malays will secretly visit Spirit Medium of Datok Gong in privacy for help.
Before Islam reach Malay Archipelago, the locals were animistic in practice. The earlier Indian traders brought Hinduism & Buddhism,which combined with the local animistic beliefs.
Even then after the mass conversion to Islam, the inhabitants of the Southeast Asian Region & Malay Peninsula still retained many of their original animistic & Hindu way of Worship.
According to local Malay legend, 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. In Malay, pagan spirits are usually called Jin Kafir while, guardian spirits are called Penunggu or Datuk Keramat. Penunggu usually means watchman, guard or attendant.
Datok Keramats were seen as an alternative power to help in spiritual healing and grant protection. Mediums (bomoh) were engaged to enable communication between worshippers with the Datos and Keramats. The Datos and Keramats include spirits residing in trees, stones and even the spirits of well known local Muslim religious teachers (worshipped at their graves).
The worship of Datok Gong among Malays and Indian Muslims in Malaysia declined steadily due to constant clamping down on such activities by Islamic authorities. In Singapore, Muslims have the freedom to do whatever they want.
How to Worship Datuk Gong
Datuk Gong can be worshipped on any day. The basic offerings are a pair of white candles, 3 joss sticks and burning gum Benjamin (kemanyan). Na Tuk worshippers prepare special offerings for the Na Tuk on Thursday evenings. A set of betel nut leaves complete with lime (kapur), sliced betel nut (pinang), Javanese tobacco (tembakau Jawa) and palm cigarette leaves (rokok daun) are offered together with fruits and the basic offerings.
Every Na Tuk has different individual feast days. In the Northern States (Perlis, Kedah & Penang), worshippers usually slaughter chickens, and sometimes goats to honour the Na Tuk on the feast day. The chickens and cows must be Halal (slaughtered by a Muslim with prayer). Especially goats so as to make the offering allowable for the Na Tuk. The meat is later cooked in curry and offered to the Na Tuk together with turmeric rice(nasi kunyit). This offering is also done when worshippers who have their wishes granted (e.g. winning lucky numbers requested from the Na Tuk previously).
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.
In Singapore, the popular shrines of Datok Kongs are:
1) Kusu Island
2) Jiu-Tiao-Qiao Xin-Ba Na-Du-Gong Temple(九条桥新芭拿督坛), Tampines
3) Loyang Tua Peh Kong Temple
The beauty of Taoism is it is able to adapt to different cultures, blend-in and accept the spirit beings of other races and religions.
Related Article: Malaysian Chinese God Of Wealth - Datok Gong (拿督公)