Temple's decision to close to mark its president's death draws concern: Hindu boards

The Sree Maha Mariamman temple had sent out a WhatsApp message to worshippers that the temple will close on Thursday evening and the whole of Friday.
The Sree Maha Mariamman temple had sent out a WhatsApp message to worshippers that the temple will close on Thursday evening and the whole of Friday.PHOTO: SREE MAHA MARIAMMAN TEMPLE/ FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - A Hindu temple's unprecedented move to remain shut the whole of Friday (Dec 8) as a mark of respect for its late president has drawn concern from both Hindu authorities and devotees alike.

The Sree Maha Mariamman temple in Yishun Ave 3 had sent out a WhatsApp message to worshippers that the temple will close on Thursday evening and the whole of Friday, and reopen only on Saturday.

In a joint statement, the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) and the Hindu Advisory Board (HAB) on Friday said it "is not the practice in Singapore for Hindu temples to close following the death of a national, community or temple leader. It is also not appropriate to do so.

"The temple only closes if a solar or lunar eclipse or if something unfortunate, such as a death, happens within the temple premises. Even then, it reopens after necessary purification prayers are done."

The temple's president, Madam K Kalyanathayee had died on Thursday, aged 69.

Known affectionately to worshippers as "Amma", she had devoted herself to the temple for more than 35 years. A worshipper, who declined to be named, said she was someone the congregation considered caring and pious.

Among other things, Madam Kalyanathayee led the management committee in raising funds to provide for the construction of the temple structures at the current site which was bought from the Housing Board in 1993.

The Hindu boards had received numerous calls, messages and e-mails about the temple's decision to close to mark Madam Kalyanathayee's passing.

The joint statement said devotees and members of the public were disappointed by the temple's decision and called on HEB and HAB to address the issue.

The Hindu boards conveyed the views to the temple via e-mail and through those who know the management, urging them to reconsider their decision and to reopen the temple. The temple is run independently of HEB.

The HEB, which is under the purview of the Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth, alerted the ministry of the development.

The Sree Maha Mariamman temple, whose history reaches back some 84 years, first started in Sembawang Estate as a focal point for rubber estate workers.

The temple's vice-president and the secretary of the management committee could not be reached for comment on Friday night.

When The Straits Times visited the temple on Friday evening, a handful of priests and other staff were seen waiting outside for the hearse carrying Madam Kalyanathayee's body.

They performed prayers and rites as the hearse paused at the temple entrance before leaving for Mandai crematorium.

It is understood that most of the temple's regular devotees were notified of the closure and did not show up at the premises.

Yishun resident T Ganesan, 32, who had just moved into the neighbourhood, was there with relatives who had just arrived from India on a visit.

The group of eight adults and two children were there to offer prayers but left after reading the notice at the gate.