Little India or A Tale of Four Temples
Little India Travel Blog› entry 5 of 23 › view all entries
August 5th, 2008 – by: andytite
The first temple on our list was Sri Veeramakaliamman, a Shaivite temple dedicated to the goddess Kali, the consort of Shiva and the devi of death and destruction. I had never been to a Hindu temple before, and the sight of the colourful statues of the deities and avatars, as well as the grand gopuram (or decorated tower) was very exciting and interesting. While I always feel like a bit of an interloper - a blatant tourist invading another person's place of worship, the temple welcomed visitors, and you were allowed to wander with impunity while strangely robed priests moved from icon to icon performing rites and services. It was an interesting experience coming face to face with the idol of Kali as well - a terrifying image of the goddess disemboweling a demon while dancing on the body of her consort Lord Shiva.
The next temple felt far more relaxed and welcoming. Sri Srinivasa Perumal is dedicated to Vishnu, the preserver, and unlike the temple of Kali it is much more open, with few enclosed shrines and spaces. Also, unlike Sri Veeramakaliamman, it was far quieter, possibly due to the time of our arrival. The gopuram is a staggering twenty metres tall, and is decorated with many scultures of Vishnu, his consort Lakshmi and depictions of the ten avatars including Rama, Krishna, Matsya and Varna. Inside there were many more depictions of the gods and figures from the vedas. It was a really relaxing and colourful place, and I'd highly reccommend a visit to any travellor curious to experience images from another faith.
We swiftly got lost, took on water and headed to Sakaya Muni Buddha Gaya temple. Commonly known in Singapore as the temple of "A Thousand Lights," Sakaya Muni should be more known for its enormous, fifteen metre high, three-hundred tonne concrete statue of the Buddha. (Of course surrounded by the eponymous thousand lights). The temple also includes depictions of the Hindu deity of Ganesha, and a reclining/sleeping Buddha located under the main statue. The room is designed for quiet meditation and reflection, and it takes your eyes a movement or two before the recumbent Buddha is visible. Around the base of the statue are sculpted scenes detailing the life of Prince Siddhārtha, and his quest to find enlightenment. These are both interesting and amusing, as the brevity of captions sometimes distorts the message.
Across the road from Sakaya Muni was Leong San See or the Dragon Mountain Temple. This is a Taoist temple, dedicated to Guam Yin the Goddess of Mercy, and featuring other deities such as Buddha and Confucius. The temple feels more communal - we were enthusiastically ushered in, while regular people from the Chinese community in Singapore went about their business or offered their gifts of fruit to the alter.
Seeing so many temples, so many different faiths and traditions in such a short time was slightly mind boggling, but ultimately incredibly interesting. The range of architectural styles, the colours and iconography, the approaches and devotions was staggering and humbling. I'd thoroughly recommend any visitor to Singapore (or any country) to try to make time to do this.
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