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Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple (45)

In the mid-nineteenth century, there were about 13,000 Indians in Singapore, many in this area.   It soon became evident that they needed to build a place of worship. It was decided that it would be dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali, very popular in Bengal, the birthplace of the workers who built this temple in 1881.

Kali is the ferocious personification of Parvati, the wife of the god Shiva, and the choice of this goddess as the chief deity of the temple was significant because she is a powerful, evil, and destructive.  This was obviously in response to the first immigrants’ need to feel safe and protected in their new country.

It began as a small shrine that gradually grew to become the temple it is today. It was built in the characteristic Dravidian style of Tamil Nadu, from southern India. And as the temple grew, it increasingly become the focus of the Hindu community’s cultural, religious and social life.

During the bombings of World War II, many took refuge in the temple, which fortunately remained intact. As is always the case with Hindu temples, it is periodically renovated.  During one of these renovations the magnificent Gopuram, or entrance tower, was built.  Over 18 meters high, it is decorated with large statues of gods and goddesses either in action, smiling peacefully or meditating. This tower is flanked by majestic lions on the temple walls and a door with small bells rung by the faithful for good luck and to make sure that their prayers are heard.

Inside the temple, in the Mandapam or central shrine, is the figure of the Goddess Kali. We can safely say that it will be hard for you to forget some of the statues of Kali you will see in this temple. In particular, one where she is wearing a garland of skulls while pulling out the entrails of her victim.

But don’t judge Kali by her outward appearance. She also blesses children, protects women and brings good luck and good health. She is usually depicted with dark skin, a necklace of skulls, and with her tongue protruding from her mouth. Her clothing is just a girdle made of dead men's hands.   She usually has 8 arms to destroy evil and protect the good with in one hand a sword and in another, the head of the demon she has just killed.

Not all of the images of Kali are so shocking.  You can also see her motherly side when she is depicted with her children Ganesha, the elephant God and Muruganthe the child God and destroyer of evil forces.

To the right of the main shrine you will see 9 stones representing the planets of the Hindu universe. Devotees come, especially in the afternoon, to do 3 laps around them and make an offering to their birth planet.

During the Deepavali festival, or Festival of Lights, there is a very lively market in this temple. Held in October or November, this is on of the Hindus’ most important celebrations.  For this festival, temples and houses are lit with small candles and oil lamps, new clothing is worn, the house is filled with colour, delicious sweets are prepared, gifts are exchanged and offerings are made to the temple as a thanks for the happiness, health, knowledge, prosperity and peace enjoyed during the previous year and also to pray that they be granted again for the next.

Even though some of the shocking figures of the goddess Kali are quite scary, this is a place of calm and harmony that can only bring good things, such as feeling the great spirituality of Singapore’s Indian community.

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