SINGAPORE - Hindu devotees to the iconic Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Little India will now be able to see the temple in its fully restored glory, with the completion of its $4.5 million restoration on Sunday morning (April 22).
The 164-year-old temple - one of the oldest in Singapore - was re-sanctified in a consecration ceremony known as Maha Samprokshanam, which is done once every 12 years.
Holy water from the gadams (sacred vessels), which carry divine powers of Hindu deities, was sprinkled on the nine pinnacles of the temple and the statue of deity Sri Srinivasa Perumal, also known as Lord Vishnu, within the temple’s main sanctum.
Some 40,000 Hindu devotees attended the consecration ceremony, held on an auspicious date from the Hindu almanac. Although the sanctification started only at around 10am, many had begun gathering at the temple grounds from as early as 6am.
The ceremony was touted as the most significant event on the Hindu calendar this year and was witnessed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who had just returned from London.
This is the first time PM Lee has visited a Hindu consecration ceremony since he assumed office in 2004.
Also present were Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran, and Senior Minister of State for Education and Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary.
Said Mr Iswaran: “An occasion like this is also an opportunity to reinforce the multi-racial, multi-religious nature of Singapore. The Prime Minister’s presence here today, having travelled overnight from overseas, is a remarkable validation of the commitment the Government has, that PM Lee also has, to this.
“It is an opportunity to bring together different communities so that we develop this mutual understanding and respect and continue to build on Singapore’s multi-racial fabric.”
Built in the 1854, the temple plays a yearly role as one of the start points for the Thaipusam procession. This is the fourth time renovations have been undertaken since it was declared a National Monument by the Preservation of Monuments Board in 1978.
The earlier re-development works were in 1979, 1992 and 2005.
The renovations expand the space that devotees can worship and eat in with a new multi-purpose facility for “sanctified” meals and religious ceremonies.
Paintings, murals and religious motifs have been repainted, while structures like the rajagopuram (tower entrance), pillars and vimanam (temple roof) have been reconditioned. Ventilation and lighting was improved, while issues such as weeds and pests were resolved.
The temple had remained open to prayers throughout the works, which began in late 2016, but devotees had to contend with the ongoing construction work around the temple.
After today, the scaffolding and hoarding will be removed and devotees can see the temple in its near-original form.
The restoration task is not an easy one as the temple’s management has to abide by its conservation status. For example, the works must stick to the same colour scheme of the original temple, said Hindu Endowments Board chief executive officer Mr T. Raja Segar.
The temple had to invite foreign experts to help in the restoration as certain specific skills were not available here. A team of 20 highly-skilled artisans, known as sthapathis, were flown in from India for the job, he added.
Special techniques include the use of lime mortar instead of regular cement within the temple’s sanctum, and the use of 14 oil and enamel paint colours to recreate the palette of the original structure.
Said the chief sculptor Mr Anand M. S. Sivaprakasam, 40, from the state of Tamil Nadu: “The weather in India and Singapore is vastly different too, and it was especially difficult for us to paint during the period of wet and cold weather earlier this year.”
The task of carrying out these works fall on the temple’s management committee, which changes every two years. Its chairman K. Vellayappan, 73, said he felt the pressure to get every detail right, in light of the stricter rules for national monuments. “It is such a relief now that the ceremony is complete,” he said.
The consecration ceremony will be followed by another 45 days of cultural programmes at the temple in a period known as mandalabishegam, and thousands of devotees are expected each day, said Dr Vellayappan.