A sprinkling of divinity at Hindu temple's consecration

South Indian priests scaled the gopuram or tower of the Sri Ruthra Kaliamman Temple in Depot Road yesterday to sprinkle holy water from nine sacred Indian rivers, such as the Ganges, on its rooftop kalasams - vessel-like pinnacles that point to the s
South Indian priests scaled the gopuram or tower of the Sri Ruthra Kaliamman Temple in Depot Road yesterday to sprinkle holy water from nine sacred Indian rivers, such as the Ganges, on its rooftop kalasams - vessel-like pinnacles that point to the sky.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Seven South Indian priests scaled the gopuram or tower of the Sri Ruthra Kaliamman Temple in Depot Road yesterday morning.

At the top, they sprinkled holy water from nine sacred Indian rivers, including the Ganges, on its rooftop kalasams, which are vessel-like pinnacles that point to the sky.

Temple chairman V.K. Ramachandra, 78, described it as an act of energy transfer from the holy water with the aim of infusing the temple and its deities with divinity.

It was part of the temple's consecration ceremony, which took place during the auspicious time between 9.30am and 10.45am.

Other rites were also conducted by a total of 37 South Indian priests .

About 5,000 devotees gathered at the site to witness the event, which they believe equates to praying and visiting temples for many years.

Among them as guests of honour were Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, Second Minister for Trade and Industry and Home Affairs and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office S. Iswaran, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Sam Tan, and former president S R Nathan.

All Hindu temples undergo renovations and repairs every 12 years.

Devotee Viva S., 67, an administrative officer, who was at the ceremony with his family, said: "Like many Hindus, we try to participate in consecration ceremonies across Singapore. We believe it is good to see it and that we will be blessed as well."

Mr Iswaran said the ceremony showed that Singapore gives its people the space and opportunity to follow their beliefs.

He said: "When we think about Singapore and our core values, one of our founding tenets was multiracialism. The best measure of how this continues to thrive in Singapore is really how the culture, language and religion of minority communities continue to flourish."

To help the temple with crowd management, its neighbour, the Taoist Chai Tien Tua temple, volunteered its compound to house Sri Ruthra Kaliamman's older devotees.

Mr Ramachandra said this showed the religious and racial harmony between the institutions.

Chai Tien Tua's chairman, Madam Tan Poh Hoey, 70, said: "We're all here to worship... It's the same. We volunteered the temple space to make sure the older worshippers got a shaded front-row seat to the procession."

Such religious harmony was also evident in the temple's early years, said Mr Ramachandra.

It started out as a shrine built by an employee of the former Alexandra Brickworks in Pasir Panjang in 1913. Over time, a Chinese temple, a church and a Muslim prayer room also sprang up nearby.

The temple's permanent home is now at 100, Depot Road, under a 99-year leasehold from the Housing Board.

Its latest round of upgrades, which cost $1.2 million, includes new additions such as 50 statues of the goddess Kali, handcrafted by artisans from India.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2015, with the headline 'A sprinkling of divinity at Hindu temple's consecration'. Print Edition | Subscribe