Funfair mood at Vesak Day event

Prayers being conducted at the temple before the unveiling of a four-storey-high devotional cloth painting, or thangka. Children from Dharma Junior, a Buddhist class for those aged five to 12, having fun during the water blessing ceremony. The childr
Prayers being conducted at the temple before the unveiling of a four-storey-high devotional cloth painting, or thangka. ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI
Thekchen Choling Tibetan Buddhist temple devotees at the Sangha blessing corner. The sprinkling of water blessings is meant to symbolise purification.
Thekchen Choling Tibetan Buddhist temple devotees at the Sangha blessing corner. The sprinkling of water blessings is meant to symbolise purification.ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI
Prayers being conducted at the temple before the unveiling of a four-storey-high devotional cloth painting, or thangka. Children from Dharma Junior, a Buddhist class for those aged five to 12, having fun during the water blessing ceremony. The childr
Children from Dharma Junior, a Buddhist class for those aged five to 12, having fun during the water blessing ceremony. The children also manned a tidbits stall.ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI

"Potato chips, one can for $3!" "Hot dogs, free for teenagers!"

These shouts would not be out of place at a neighbourhood carnival - but at a temple's Vesak Day celebration?

This was the scene that greeted visitors in Beatty Lane in the Jalan Besar area yesterday morning, as the Thekchen Choling Tibetan Buddhist temple marked Vesak Day with not just religious rites, but also a community fair.

Seventeen stalls were set up, selling food such as fried noodles, popcorn and ice cream. There were also booths advertising religious classes, henna painting and blessings for pets.

The street was closed for the temple celebrations, with the three coffee shops along Beatty Lane joining in for the first time. Operators had struck a deal with the temple to honour funfair coupons and accept them as payment for drinks.

But for many, the highlight of the morning was the ritual unveiling of a four-storey-high devotional cloth painting, or thangka. The ritual took place after prayers, offerings and a procession of relics. Now in its 12th year, it draws about 5,000 to 8,000 devotees each time, organisers said.

Buddhists mark the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha on Vesak Day.

A hand-sewn Shakyamuni Buddha applique thangka - measuring 13m by 9m, or some four storeys high - was unveiled at Thekchen Choling, Singapore's only 24-hour Tibetan Buddhist temple, as part of Vesak Day celebrations yesterday. The thangka, or devotio
Marking Vesak Day in a big way: A hand-sewn Shakyamuni Buddha applique thangka - measuring 13m by 9m, or some four storeys high - was unveiled at Thekchen Choling, Singapore's only 24-hour Tibetan Buddhist temple, as part of Vesak Day celebrations yesterday. The thangka, or devotional cloth painting, is unveiled only once a year on Vesak Day and follows the centuries-old Tibetan Buddhist tradition of displaying giant thangkas of various Buddhist deities during annual festivities to inspire devotees and pilgrims. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Abbot Namdrol Rinpoche, the temple's spiritual director, called for religious harmony and prayed for peace as he addressed the crowd that had gathered for the unveiling. "Let us all be supportive of one another, truly regardless of race, language and religion," he told devotees.

Businessman Paul Wong, 51, attends the ceremony with his family every year. While there are relatively fewer followers of Tibetan Buddhism here, he said he is willing to explore different traditions in his faith.

"The temple is always growing because the leadership is English-educated, so the rites have been drawing English-speaking, younger devotees," said Mr Wong, who also goes to the Kuan Im Tng Temple in Joo Chiat.

Yesterday, the Thekchen Choling Tibetan Buddhist temple, which has a congregation of about 100, also handed out bursaries to 45 low-income students.

One recipient, Haridas, 16, said he was encouraged by a family friend to apply for the bursary, even though he is not Buddhist.

The first-year Catholic Junior College student, who goes by one name, said the ceremony was an eye-opener and he is looking forward to attending it again next year.

"During the festival, the prayers were very interesting," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2017, with the headline 'Funfair mood at Vesak Day event'. Print Edition | Subscribe