My favourite Hindu god is Ganesha, the one with the elephant head, the god of wisdom, patron of arts and sciences and the Remover of Obstacles.
He’s the god we non-Hindus all recognise, but I didn’t know much about him until my guide Charlotte took me into the Veeramakaliamman Temple in Singapore.
I like him even better now, though I’m not so keen on Kali, who eats people’s entrails and seems to enjoy it.
Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple on busy Serangoon Rd is the best known attraction of Singapore’s Little India district. I’d often passed it, taken a photo from the outside (never quite as good as what I hoped to capture) and moved on.
I felt a bit uncomfortable about going inside with a camera slung over my shoulder, not sure of what went on in there and whether I’d be welcome. However, Charlotte assured me that there was no problem.
So we joined other tourists and devotees removing their shoes. ‘Persons stealing footwear will be handed to police’ read the sign above the racks. I don’t think anyone in Singapore would fit my muddy old boots (size 46 – almost as big as you can get. I’m hard to knock over.)
Then we rang the bells on the door to announce our arrival to the gods.
Nobody took any notice of us.
Priests were accepting the offerings of garlands and bananas devotees had brought to the gods, and in return passing on prayers to them.
The central event taking place was the wedding of a very blonde bride and an Indian groom, amid much chanting and taking of photos and videos. I felt fine about pulling out the camera.
In the courtyards out the back we were able to admire the other gods. Charlotte did her best to explain Hinduism to me, but it is complicated of course, and 20 minutes is not enough to work out who’s who. I did get the idea that there is one god with many manifestations, and of course a huge number of stories associated with the belief.
Charlotte pointed out Ganesha’s broken tusk, a reminder that not even gods are perfect. I like that idea.
As we reached the door, I placed a few coins in the donation box, not enough to get my name inscribed on the wall alongside the businesses and individuals who had contributed towards the temple’s maintenance. Not only were their names listed, but also the amounts they had donated.
I hope the gods took notice and are rewarding them suitably, or at least, keeping them away from Kali.
Staying there: Santa Grand Hotel Little India is a two minute walk from the temple. Rooms begin at S$110 per night. I was their guest and very comfortable there. Breakfast is in the curry restaurant downstairs. It may not serve the muesli and coffee you are used to, but it is authentically Indian prata and tea.
Touring there: Charlotte Chu runs excellent walking tours through Little India and Chinatown for individuals or small groups. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.