February 13, 2023
SINGAPORE – Devotees thronged the streets of Chinatown early on Sunday to witness Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple cross yet another milestone – its sixth consecration ceremony, also known as the Maha Kumbabishegam.
The Sri Mariamman Temple, a national monument with close to 200 years of history, was unveiled to the public after a year-long restoration.
The $3.5 million restoration involved 12 specialist sculptors and seven metal and wood artisans from India who worked on the sanctums, domes and ceiling frescoes. The temple’s original colour scheme and structure have been retained.
About 20,000 devotees attended the ceremony, which occurs every 12 years. Tears of joy and devotees clad in ponchos were common sights at the event, which went on in full swing despite the morning downpour.
Groups of Hindu priests climbed the Raja Gopuram, or grand entrance tower of the temple, and the six vimanams, or temple towers, to perform the resanctification rituals. At 8.20am, the priests poured holy water from sacred pots on the temple’s pinnacles in unison, which prompted the clasping of hands and rigorous chanting.
Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong took part in the ceremony, along with Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo, Transport Minister S. Iswaran and Bukit Batok MP Murali Pillai.
In a Facebook post on the ceremony, Mr Wong said: “This is part of living in multicultural Singapore, where the whole community comes together to celebrate each other’s cultural and religious milestones.”
Mrs Teo, who is MP for the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng ward in Jalan Besar GRC, highlighted the voluntary participation of non-Indians in Hindu festivities in the area.
“The temple has become very much part and parcel of the local community,” she said.
Noting the presence of religious leaders from other faiths, she added: “This demonstrates very clearly the multiracial, multicultural and multi-religious harmony that we have been able to maintain, and we must make every effort to uphold it.”
Mr Iswaran described the ceremony as a “fitting celebration”, with Singapore lowering its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) from yellow to green from Monday. Dorscon green indicates that Covid-19 is now considered mild and poses minimal disruption to daily life.
Mother of two Sangeetha Vijay, 45, who has frequented the temple since she was 10, said it is special as she believes Sri Mariamman had answered her prayer for a daughter some 20 years ago.
“I missed the consecration in 2010 due to my second pregnancy. I hope to extend my gratitude today,” she added.
For Mrs Sumathi Nadesan, who grew up in nearby Blair Plain, the latest consecration of her childhood temple has brought much joy.
“The consecration is just as big an affair as it was in my childhood. There is the same intense piousness, and yet much less hassle,” the 63-year old-said.
Many migrant workers also turned up, and were seen sharing the experience with their families overseas via video calls.
Migrant worker Jagadheesh Ramamoorthy, 40, said he appreciated the efficient crowd control and the LED walls along South Bridge Road that enabled easier viewing.
Temple secretary S. Kathiresan said the support from devotees was “overwhelming”, noting some had arrived at 2.30am despite the event starting at 7.15am.
The electric lamps illuminating the Sri Mariamman deity in its main inner sanctum have been replaced with traditional oil lamps. The sanctum will now evoke feelings akin to being in a “mother’s womb”, temple chairman S. Lakshmanan said.
The consecration ceremony will be followed by 48 days of religious rituals and cultural showcases, in a period known as the Mandalabishegam.
Mr Jayden Chua, 35, and his mother Nancy Tan, 64, had accompanied their Hindu friends to the ceremony.
Likening the fervour to that at the National Day Parade, Mr Chua said: “It is nothing like I have seen – the collective piety of thousands of devotees.” TAMIL MURASU