Waterloo Street was filled with the beating of drums and the pattering of the bare feet of dancers yesterday morning as the Sri Krishnan Temple was unveiled in its fully restored glory after four years of works costing almost $4 million.
One of the oldest Hindu temples in Singapore at 148 years old, it was re-sanctified in a consecration ceremony called Maha Samprokshanam, done every 12 to 15 years.
The event was attended by some 10,000 devotees, with Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran as guest of honour and Members of Parliament Denise Phua and Edwin Tong in attendance as well.
At 9.15am, an auspicious time chosen by the temple, holy water was sprinkled on the main entrance and the temple dome by priests flown in from India. The ritual marked the start of the 48-day consecration process.
The moment brought Ms Sharmila Kanagalingam, 33, to tears amid chanting and celebratory hugs among the devotees around her.
The Singapore Polytechnic interior design lecturer is the daughter-in-law of temple chairman P. Sivaraman, and played a part in the refurbishment.
"It is just years of build-up and anticipation for this moment," she said. "And also gratitude and relief that everything went to plan."
The shrines, pillars, ceilings and temple dome were upgraded in the renovation, which started in 2014.
In the four-year process, the temple committee collaborated with artists and technical advisers to review and endorse ideas for the renovation. The dome and the statues around it were clad in gold-plated copper, while decorative works on the pillars required two sculptors crafting them on site over three years.
To ensure minimal disruption to worshippers, the new ceiling paintings depicting Lord Krishna's life were not painted directly onto the ceiling. Instead, they were done in India and assembled on site.
In the main hall, eight cement shrines were replaced with onyx sanctums. The stone was chosen for its durability.
"The major point is easy maintenance in the future," said Mr Sivaraman, 72. This is especially important amid a decreasing number of temple painters, sculptors and artists, he added.
It was "real tough" finding suitable materials such as onyx, said Mr Sivaraman, who has been chairman since 1984. The stones, eventually sourced from India, were sent to the National University of Singapore to test their authenticity and hardiness.
Small details such as the finishing glue were also not spared, he added, citing a change in the type of glue used. "If we did not varnish in Italian glue, it might not give you that real, rich look for natural stones," he said.
Nurse Sharon Mano, 55, was one of many devotees who gathered early for the ceremony. She was at the temple at 7.30am. "It is a must to come to get Lord Krishna's blessings because this ceremony is only every 12 years," she said.
The Sri Krishnan Temple was established in 1870, when an idol of Lord Krishna was set up under a banyan tree in Waterloo Street, which was then known as Church Street. The temple remains at its original site and was gazetted for conservation in June 2014.
Mr Iswaran said the temple shows how Singaporeans share in one another's beliefs and culture, leading to a sense of community and mutual respect.
"One of the very interesting features of this temple has been the fact that it has appealed to Singaporeans of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds," he said.