Vesak Day celebrations draw crowds to temple

An image of Buddha in silk, that is four storeys high, was the centrepiece of celebrations at the Thekchen Choling temple in Jalan Besar.
An image of Buddha in silk, that is four storeys high, was the centrepiece of celebrations at the Thekchen Choling temple in Jalan Besar.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

To bursts of confetti and chanting of monks, a four-storey-high silk depiction of Buddha was unveiled, with devotees eagerly craning their necks to behold it.

It was the annual highlight of Thekchen Choling (Singapore) temple's celebrations of Vesak Day yesterday, a Buddhist festival which commemorates Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death.

Each year, the 13m by 9m hand-sewn silk applique image of Buddha, known as a thangka, is unveiled before crowds at the Tibetan Buddhist temple in Jalan Besar.

Suspended from a crane in previous years, the thangka was presented as a backdrop this year, with tables bearing offerings of flowers, fruit and vegetarian food before it.

Among the devotees waiting for the thangka's unveiling was administrative staff member Nancy Tan, 56, who lives nearby. "I look forward to this every year," she said. "It's very grand, because it's so huge. It gives a sense of awe."

There were other attractions for templegoers, such as holy relics displayed at an altar. A lively carnival with food and game stalls filled the street, with the temple's youth group and children's group Dharma Junior helping out too.

The youth group plans to hold a larger carnival later this year to raise funds for the Yellow Ribbon Project supporting former convicts.

Another form of community engagement was the temple's annual bursary presentation, with 45 bursaries given to students from low-income families.

Office cleaner Junaidah Abdul Rahim, 55, was there to watch her 10-year-old grandson receive his bursary. Gesturing to the carnival which her other grandchildren were enjoying, she said: "It's fun, and good to mix around and see other cultures."

Ahead of yesterday's celebrations, the temple and the Jalan Besar Citizens Consultative Committee distributed Vesak Day gift packs to 1,300 households nearby.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 22, 2016, with the headline 'Vesak Day celebrations draw crowds to temple'. Print Edition | Subscribe