Monday, October 27, 2008

Deepavali at the Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple

I took a morning walk around East Coast Road this morning and spotted the crowds around the well-known Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple in Ceylon Road. Hindus were starting off their Deepavali with a morning visit to the temple.

The temple is of course quite a well-known building on Ceylon Road - a temple building was first built on the site in about 1850. The site was chosen because a statue of the god Vinayagar had washed up under a Chempaka tree by a pond in this area. Devotees were largely from the Ceylon or Sri Lankan Tamil community (hence the name of the road). The temple has been rebuilt a few times and underwent major renovation and re-consecration a few years ago. It is a true landmark of Katong, and indeed of Singapore.

I'd walked inside the temple on a previous excursion. As it was not then a festive occasion, the temple compound was quiet and peaceful. The columned hall within had a brightly painted ceiling, telling stories of Lord Vinayagar (after whom the temple is named) from the time of his birth till marriage.

Today, the temple was indeed a busy place with people coming and going all the time. Cars and taxis dropped off their passengers, people walked to and from East Coast Road. The devotees seemed to be mainly men - likely, from the foreign worker community. They stood in groups here and there outside the temple dressed neatly in well-ironed shirts.

There were also a number of family groups - the women in colourful saris and punjabi suits, and children in their best clothing too. It was amusing to see one family come in their best clothes - all except their footwear, which appeared to be old slippers and sandals. Of course, I guess I would have done the same. I've never liked putting my shoes outside the temple where anyone could get at them.

The website has the history of the temple, and more photos. Reading the website, I found out that of the $6m required to renovate/rebuild the temple, some $500,000 was donated by Singaporeans from other faiths. What a precious treasure is religious harmony - and how sad that in Ceylon itself, this religious harmony has been shattered.

Here's wishing our Hindu brothers and sisters a Happy Deepavali!

P.S. More photos of the temple here.

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