Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple consecration ceremony: 5 things about the historic temple in Ceylon Road

Carvings of Lord Vinayagar adorn the Sri Vinayagar temple in Ceylon Road. -- ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG  
Carvings of Lord Vinayagar adorn the Sri Vinayagar temple in Ceylon Road. -- ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG  

SINGAPORE - The 120-year-old Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple in Ceylon Road has been modernised as part of a $4 million renovation project to mark its upcoming consecration ceremony to be held on Jan 26, 2015.

Called the Maha Kumbhabishegam, this is a highly auspicious ritual held every 12 years.

Singapore's former president, Mr S. R. Nathan, who lives nearby, will attend the ceremony. The guest of honour will be Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who also graced the temple's last consecration ceremony in 2003 when he was Singapore's Prime Minister.

Here are some interesting facts about the temple:

1. The temple's history


The Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple dates back to the 1850s, when a stone statue of Lord Vinayagar washed up on the bank of a nearby stream.

An attap hut was built to house the statue and in 1929, it was replaced by a temple for the Ceylon Tamil community. Damaged during the war, the temple was restored in 1948. It was rebuilt in 1988 and demolished in 2000.

The new complex has a two-storey building that will include a kindergarten, a day-care centre for the elderly, a mini-museum featuring the temple's history, a library, a conference hall and a wedding hall.

Lord Vinayagar, the chief deity of the temple, is revered as the Remover of Obstacles. Hindus pray for his blessings before starting on any project. The temple is the second-oldest Hindu temple in Singapore after the Mariamman Temple on South Bridge Road.

2. Chinese architect

Architect Priscilla Chow, of Designchart Architects, who is a Chinese and a Buddhist, designed the new look for the temple. She was recommended by a trustee of the temple.

'I took it as a challenge,' she told The Straits Times in 2003. 'After all, how many times can an architect be asked to design an Indian temple?'

Her only brush with temple design up until then had been a class project at university. For the project, she worked together with temple specialist G. Radhakrishnan and 27 other artisans flown in from India.

Multi-racial cohesion was at work in other ways for this temple. Chinese contractors were involved in rebuilding the temple in 2003, which was supported by donations from Muslims, Buddhists and Christians. One Muslim businessman even donated $111,250 in cash.

3. Musical Pillar

The temple's unique Musical Pillar was unveiled in August 2009. It produces different notes when tapped. The pillar is a 2.1m tall, 7,000kg structure carved from a single piece of special grade granite from Tamil Nadu. Sculptors worked on it for three years in Mahabalipuram.

Costing some $200,000, the pillar comprises an inner column encircled by 12 smaller columns and is built in the tradition of similar pillars found in ancient temples of south India such as the Madurai Meenakshi Temple.

4. Unique features

The temple has some very unique features, like the main entrance which is modelled after ancient temples.

In ancient times, the king will come seated on an elephant and the doors must allow him and the elephant to pass through the doorway.

Another novel feature is the beautifully etched entrance stone, a first for any temple in Singapore.

There are also four granite pillars with the 32 forms of Lord Vinayagar, also known as Ganesha or the elephant god.

Nearly 13kg of gold were used for the gold-plated main dome and flag pole.

5. Binding the community

The temple was established by the Ceylonese Tamils from Sri Lanka.

Ceylon Road, where it is located in fact derived its name from the presence of the many Ceylonese or Sri Lankan Tamils who are one of the earliest groups of immigrants in Singapore.

Many of them had cattle farms around the area and earned their living selling goats' milk.

Source: The Straits Times archives, Singapore Infopedia


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