Sri Thandayuthapani Temple

Sri Thandayuthapani Temple (44)

Few things start quite as simply and humbly as this temple. It originated under the branches of a tall tree with a figurine of the god Thandayuthapani, or Lord Subramaniam, also known as Lord Murugan, Shiva’s youngest son.

Murugan represents the five senses and the mind open to knowledge. He is usually depicted with a long spear, as the destroyer of all evil forces. He is also represented with six faces and twelve arms.

The Chettiar community, a rich Tamil caste from southern India, mostly bankers and lenders were great devotees of Lord Murugan, and offered him their prayers. Therefore, this temple is also known as the Chettiar temple. In fact, the community bought the land where it is now located and consecrated the temple in 1859.

The temple has undergone restoration and renovation on several occasions, in the Hindu tradition of renewal approximately every 12 years.  After every restoration project a new consecration ceremony was performed. The years chosen were 1936, 1955, 1983 and 1996 with the final consecration to date taking place on 27 November 2009, in front of more than 20,000 devotees. 

In addition, the community felt the need to improve the temple with modern facilities in order to keep pace with Singapore's growth. So, over the years they have added a multi-storey building, a library and a large ceremonial hall, very popular for weddings.

The spectacular Gopuram, or entrance tower, more than 22 meters tall, is one of the highest in Southeast Asia. It is richly decorated with floral motifs and figures representing gods. Two huge carved wooden doors remind you that as humans we are tiny compared to the divine.

As you can see the temple is spacious and open. The sanctuary area is well lit thanks to the 48 glass windows letting in the sunlight. Its green pillars and mouldings are delicately carved with many figures of gods almost all made out of bronze. You will also notice that, besides the central shrine which houses the lord Murugan, there are small shrines to other gods on the side.

If there is something this temple is famous for, it is the different festivals celebrated here, especially the Thaipusam. This festival is celebrated on the day of the full moon in January and February. Hundreds of devotees gather at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to pray, receive ritualistic showers and show their devotion. The most radical expression of this devotion is the way in which hundreds of pilgrims pierce their tongues, cheeks and bodies with hooks, harpoons and needles.

The devotees must abstain from sexual pleasure as proof of their willingness to seek self-perfection, and they go on a 3 kilometre pilgrimage to get here. It is an act of penance carried out to give thanks to Lord Murugan for the granting of prayers. Many wear "kavadis" two semicircular pieces of steel decorated with peacock feathers and hooks and spikes that pierce the skin in the back and the chest.  They also carry small brass bells that ring with each movement, and even two baskets hanging from each end, which contain rice, milk and other things that the devotee has committed to offering the Lord. Coconuts are smashed at the feet of the penitents to bring good luck, and many of the pilgrims’ friends and relatives sing and shout around them for encouragement.  Often, however, the processions are so silent that the only sound is the ringing of these small bells.

Undoubtedly, one of the most spectacular and dramatic Hindu festivals in all of Southeast Asia. Hopefully you will be lucky enough to witness one of these exotic and interesting festivals.

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