KUALA KANGSAR, June 5 — Dozens of steel cannons are fired by the villagers of a sleepy Malaysian hamlet for several hours into the night, carrying on a decades-old tradition celebrating the beginning of the Muslim holiday of Eid.
The festival marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, with devotees in Malaysia celebrating with solemn prayer, music and feasting.
For decades, the Malay-Muslim villagers of Kampung Talang, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) northwest of Ipoh in the northern state of Perak, have greeted the holiday by firing of homemade cannons.
In one of six sites facing a paddy field just outside the royal town of Kuala Kangsar, some 13 steel pipes repurposed as home-made howitzers aim skywards as young men stand by with flaming torches.
A bubbling mixture of calcium carbide and water had been stuffed into the pipes.
Then leader Amar Ehzan Mohamad Shahiry barked an order through a loud hailer, and the torches touched a small opening, igniting the mixture which blasted into the air.
“Cannons have been fired in our village since the 1930s. If there are no cannons here, there is no Eid,” the 32-year-old told AFP.
He said the cannons fired back in the past were made of bamboo and used to frighten wild animals so that villagers would be able to celebrate Eid safely.
The tradition of greeting Eid with a bang stuck, and later generations of village cannoneers upgraded the bamboo to steel.
The ones Amar and the rest of the village”s “artillerymen” use are repurposed from sand pumping pipes, coated with anti-rust paint, and marked with football club logos and other insignia.
This year, thousands of people came to witness the firing of the village”s 80-plus cannons, which went off regularly from Tuesday night until Wednesday morning.
With the exception of two brands of crackers, most other fireworks are banned in Malaysia, with those selling or using them facing stiff penalties.
Activists have called for the stricter regulation of illegal fireworks, with some even calling for a complete ban as local reports of children injuring themselves surface every year.
State news agency Bernama reported recently that a 10-year-old boy in the central state of Pahang faced going blind after playing with firecrackers.
Amar says he and his fellow villagers are resolute in carrying on their tradition, saying he hasn”t seen anyone seriously injured in 15 years.
“If you follow the rules (of safety), God willing, everything will be safe,” he said.
“I hope our tradition will be here to stay, for our children and our grandchildren to come, from generation to generation,” he said. — AFP