Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple is an impressive structure in Chinatown. Dating back to 1827, the brick bones of the present building were built around 1843. Later additions have included a profusion of deities carved all over its walls, bell-decked doors and frescoes on the ceilings.
As you enter the gates of the temple, look up at the gopuram or the tower over the entrance of the temple. Covered with figurative sculptures of gods and goddesses and mythological beasts, this tower is visible from afar so devotees can even say their prayers without stepping inside the temple. Notice strings of fresh mango and coconut leaves hanging above temple doors – they are signs of welcome and purity.
As with all Hindu temples, certain rituals have to be observed. Remove your shoes before you enter. At the door, devotees ask God to grant their requests by ringing the bells before entering. They also purify themselves by washing their hands and feet, and sprinkling water on their heads. Near the door, look out for the aluminium enclosure into which devotees break coconuts as a symbol of breaking their egos to reveal their pure and kind inner-selves.
Within the temple compound, walk in a clock-wise direction and only encircle the temple hall an odd number of times as a sign of good luck. Look out for the offerings of bananas (symbol of abundance), mangoes and even saris for the goddesses at the shrine. The lotus, a symbol of human life to the Hindus, is frequently used as a decorative motif.