SINGAPORE – Even as the rain poured early on Sunday morning (Dec 15), the crowds outside the Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple in Chinatown only grew, covering the roads in a sea of bright colours with their ponchos, umbrellas and traditional wear.
About 15,000 devotees had gathered for the consecration ceremony that marked the re-energising of the 94-year-old temple and its deity within, and happens only once every 12 years.
The ceremony also marked the end of seven months of renovation and maintenance works that cost about $1 million.
The facilities were upgraded, including the addition of a wheelchair ramp, repainting of murals, and more cubicles in the restrooms.
Though the water squelched beneath their feet and the raindrops trickled down their faces, the throngs of people were patient as they waited outside the temple at Keong Saik Road.
Among the crowds was Mr Yaepan Chanpran, a machine operator, who woke up at 5am to be one of the first outside the temple at 7am.
The 58-year-old has worshipped at the temple for more than 20 years, and believes it to be “very powerful”.
For more than an hour from 8.30am, the devotees chanted as a procession of priests who held pots of sacred water headed to the top of the temple roof.
At 9.50am, they sprinkled the water from the roof, signifying the completion of the ceremony.
By then, the skies cleared and the rain ceased, as the guest-of-honour Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education, and MPs Ms Joan Pereira and Mr Murali Pillai entered the temple to observe some rituals.
Mr Murali said: “This temple serves not just the Hindu community, but the larger community within Chinatown… (It) is a wonderful institution that serves across religions (and) across races.”
A common practice at the temple is to make 108 circumambulations around the sanctum. Around 5,000 people perform the ritual at the temple on a regular day, said temple president R. M. Muthaiah.
The renovations have also maximised the space where devotees can worship and carry out the circumambulations.
Madam Pospolvali R. A. Govindan, 57, a school cleaner, said that she did not mind braving the rain to attend the ceremony.
“I wanted to come because I wanted to pray here today. When I pray here, my prayers come true,” she said.
She has worshipped at the temple about once a week for over 50 years.
Mr Muthaiah said the temple has drawn devotees from many different cultures for many years.
“In fact, the first person to (enter the temple) every day is a Chinese man, an ardent devotee. Every day without fail, he will be the first person standing outside when we open the door,” he added.
For Mr Koh Kok Wah, 57, it was his first time attending a consecration ceremony after two of his Indian friends invited him.
He has been praying to the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha for many years even though he identifies himself as a Buddhist.
“I found the Hindu rituals in the ceremony very interesting,” said Mr Koh, who owns a small shop selling Buddhist talismans.