Arulmigu Velmurugan Gnanamuneeswarar Temple Timings: 7:00 am to 12.00 Noon and 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm.
Unique is the word that best describes Arulmigu Velmurugan Gnanamuneeswarar Temple’s (AVGMT) new structure at Rivervale Crescent, Sengkang. Here in the new millennium, is an architecturally stylish building infused with all essential symbolisms of ancient South Indian Hindu temple architecture.
First and foremost, its ornate architecture, dimensions, carved images and motifs, sanctums, and even the lay of the land are all full of metaphysical meaning and purpose. In an effort to enhance the grandeur of the shrine a raised dome like structure above the sanctum sanctorum has been fashioned, moving away from the hitherto-used pyramidal roof. One cannot also miss the vitality of the carvings on the outer columns of the hall and ambulatory path. In terms of scale, it blends modestly in with the modern housing structures which surround it. Style wise, its domed tower roofs bear elements of multi ethnicity and appear to compliment even its neighbouring Taoist Temple and Prayer Hall. As a whole, AVGMT stands as a beautiful Hindu edifice representative of the time, the people, the neighbourhood, and one might add, of the nation’s
need for a place of which goes beyond addressing its religious needs. The final form of the temple is definitely majestic without being overly ornamental.
Having a purpose What sets AVGMT apart from all other Hindu temples ever built in Singapore? It may not be known to many that this modern day temple has scored several firsts even before the completion of the actual temple structure. Three temples with very different traditions of worship and history merged to form the temple society of Arulmigu Velmurugan Gnanamuneeswarar Temple. The three temples — Sri Krishna Bhagawan Durga Parameswari Temple (formerly at Jalan Kayu), Sri Mariamman Muneeswarar Temple (formerly at Jalan Kayu) and Arulmigu Velmurugan Temple (formerly at Silat Road) – were brought under one roof and with the timely assistance and support of the Hindu Endowments Board, have been housed temporarily at Serangoon Road since 2001. Successful mergers of places of worship are not common even in land scarce Singapore and AVGMT is the first of its kind.
Making the temple relevant to the times has been the focus of the management committee of AVGMT. With this in mind, the temple was constructed to accommodate a pre school centre within its lower floor. The decision to open a pre school providing free educational services for disadvantaged families is yet another first.
AVGMT set a new standard in Hindu temple development in June 2004 with the conduct of the Sangustaapanam Ceremony where 1008 sangus (conch shells), a symbol of Goddess Lakshimi and believed to bring luck and prosperity, were placed ceremoniously in the base of the main sanctum structure by devotees. Never before has a ceremony of this nature been conducted in this part of the world! AVGMT sprang another first with the conduct of the auspicious Bramaranthira Staapanam; a ceremony where precious stones and metals are placed on the top of the temple dome adding to its divinity. What set this auspicious ceremony apart from any conducted before was the involvement of common folk in a most sacred ritual conducted usually by priests. This, one must add, is a noteworthy step forward in making the religion, temple and worship relatable to one and all.
Humble Beginnings: The evolution of AVGMT is indeed history in the making. Each of the three temples which make up today’s Sengkang sanctuary has an inspiring story to tell.
Sri Krishna Bhagawan Durga Parameswari Temple began as a refuge for early Indian settlers in the Seletar and Jalan Kayu areas back in the late 1940s. Its modest altar housed the deities of Sri Vinayagar, Sri Krishna Bhagawan and Sri Durga Parameswari. Over the years, this remarkable little temple came to be known not just for its divinity, but strangely, also for its delicious paal payasam (sweet milk porridge) which was served on Saturdays to all in its vicinity. The milk used for making the paal payasam came from a cow which was owned by the temple. Surprisingly, so much milk was produced daily that it was sent for use at other temples!
The history of Sri Mariamman Muneswarar Temple though traversed with mysticism is known for the wonders of spirituality ‘experienced by devotees who frequented the place since it was first established. By 1972, this quaint temple had sanctums erected for Sri Kailaya Ganapathy, Sri Muthumariamman, Sri Gnana Muneeswarar, Sri Veerapathirar and Sri Subramaniar. Many local Indians, who worshipped at the temple in its early days, continue to do so even after its relocation, maintaining a strong religious affinity to its deities.
Arulmigu Velmurugan Temple, built in 1960 at Silat Road, served the largely migrant population of Indians living in the vicinity of the Malayan Railways. Many today still remember the simple festivities that were held at the temple in the early days. In the 1970s this little temple was popular with kavadi bearers during Panguni Utiram, a festival celebrating the celestial marriage of Lord Subramanya to Theivanai, the adopted daughter of Lord Indra.
What is interesting is that all three temples have been managed by persons with visions of building a lasting structure to house their deities. Though plagued by the uncertainty on the availability of suitable land, making do with temporary housing conditions and a having to raise large amounts of funds for temple construction, these people never lost their faith and hope. Jointly, the temple society of Arulmigu Velmurugan Gnana Muneeswarar Temple, since its birth in 2000, has raised more than $6 million for the construction of their vision sanctuary at Sengkang.
Milestone Events at Arulmigu Velmurugan Gnana Muneeswarar Temple:
People tend to remember best those events which impact their lives deeply. It may come as no surprise then that many people in Singapore will remember the events listed in this article not because of their scale but because they were unique and broke new ground in Hindu temple worship. One might ask where exactly these exceptional events took place. The answer lies no further than at Arulmigu Velmurugan Gnanamuneeswarar Temple – both at the temporary site in Serangoon Road and at its new site in Sengkang.
We start with Laksharchanai, held in August 2001 and 2003, at AVGMT’s Serangoon Road site. 100, 000 religious verses were continuously recited in Tamil to sanctify the temple’s deities. It was a joyous occasion for many devotees as it was one of the rare moments when the religious experience was made more meaningful. Holy scriptures, usually recited in the ancient language of Sanskrit, were recited in Tamil, a language unlike Sanskrit familiar to most devotees.
Another event making the list of special occasions would be Divine Lights Procession – which celebrates the transfer of Light – signifying the offer of help to others. The transfer of light also denotes the continuous spread of religious teachings to purify the mind, to offer relieve from suffering and attain enlightenment. Since 2002, AVGMT, which has made promoting religious harmony in Singapore a priority, has been jointly organizing the annual procession with the Singapore Buddhist Lodge and Leong San Temple during Deepavali. The Divine Lights Procession represents harmony amongst Singaporeans; for regardless of ethnic and religious backgrounds they walk in unison bearing a light, the symbol of hope and World Peace. This one of a kind procession has the distinction of being endorsed as a “community bonding” project by the Hindu Endowments Board.
While most Hindu religious practices are solely the affairs of priest AVGMT has taken the lead to involve regular folk in many of these sacred practices. The annual Santhana Kuda Abhishegam is one such prayer where devotees themselves pour rosewater and offer sandalwood paste offerings to Lord Velmurugan – a prayer usually held in conjunction with National Day Celebrations. Likewise, during Paal Kuda Abishegam prayers conducted to usher in the New Year and Thaipusam festival, deities are bathed in milk by devotees themselves, a tradition usually reserved for priests. AVGMT’s management believes that devotees must get personally involved in religious processes and enjoy a sense of belonging to their favored place of worship. It is this principle understanding that has paved the way for greater devotee participation in many of the temple’s ceremonial prayers.
1008 Shangustaapanam is one religious ceremony deeply etched in the minds of AVGMT’s devotees and likely to be fondly remembered for a long time to come. In June 2004, one thousand and eight conch shells were ceremoniously placed in the bases of the main sanctums before any sculptural works at the Sengkang site commenced. This remarkable feat to embed conches for prosperity is the first of its kind in South East Asia. Conch shells have a deep symbolic and religious tradition in Hinduism. To this very day, Hindus use the conch as a part of their religious practices, blowing it during worship at specific points, accompanied by ceremonial bells.
Ceremonies and Poojas of a Maha Kumbabishegam:
When a temple has been newly built, relocated or renovated, a ceremony of consecration (blessing) and devotion called the Maha Kumbabishegam is held. A series of elaborate rituals are carried out when the deities in the existing temple are moved to the new temple. The rituals are grand and take place over a period of about five months. During this time, very rare, yet sacred, ceremonies are performed to invoke and transfer divine powers from an old or existing temple to a new or renovated temple.
It begins with Yenthra Pooja for 48 days followed by the Yagasalai Pooja.
Yenthrams are gold sheets with important Sanskrit scriptures. These sheets will be placed in the base of the pedestals in the new temple where the deities will be installed. Yenthrams are the channel of power for the deities. This power is reinforced with chanting of prayers for 48 days.
Vinayagar Anukyai & Ganapathy Homam:
Religious verses are chanted for Lord Vinayagar to seek his blessings to clear obstacles.
This ceremony is performed to please Lord Vinayagar to ward off evil and hindrances as well as to ensure that the Maha Kumbabishegam progresses as planned.
Prayers are performed for the nine planets (navagrahams) to ward off any problems and reap the navagrahas benefits.
Ceremonial Opening of Temple Doors:
A temple’s doors are ceremoniously opened with the chanting of Holy Scriptures (Vedas) and hymns (Thevarams). This is followed by ceremonies to cleanse the Temple and prepare for the yagasalai.
Sri Sooktha Homam:
Prayers in praise of Goddess Lakshmi are described as Sri Sooktham. These prayers are recited with offerings of lotus flowers, vilva leaves, fruits, sandal and auspicious items for the continued presence of Goddess Lakshimi – of , light, fortune, luck, beauty and fertility.
Shanthi Homam, Samhitha Homam and Moorthy Homam:
Both Shanthi Homam and Samhitha Homam are performed to repent any misactions or faults that may have occurred during the construction of a temple as well as during the planning and execution of the Maha Kumbabishegam. Moorthy Homam is done before the Maha Kumbabishegam for the deities installed in a temple to gain cosmic powers.
This is the ceremony where fresh mud is taken from the base of a tree and used in the area around the Yagasalai, the place where sacrificial rituals are conducted with an altar of fire. The yagasalai would be set up in advance at the new temple. Prayers are performed for the Goddess of Earth (Booma Devi).
Nine kinds of pulses are also sown in the blessed soil that is brought to the new temple. The growth of plants from these seeds symbolizes the prosperity of the new temple.
Acharya Rakshabandhanam and Varanam:
Priests are blessed and protective bracelets are tied on their hands to protect them. Varanam is where invited priests performing the rituals are offered special garments and are assigned to their specific duties during the Maha Kumbabishegam.
In this ceremony, the gold plated pinnacles (kalasams) are fitted on the top of the roof of the new temple. This is also the day the temple’s sculptors are honoured.
Silver pots or vessels (kumbams) are filled with blessed water. The number of holy vessels prepared would depend on the number of deities in the temple. These vessels would represent each of the deities of the temple. Cloth that is tied around the vessel represents flesh and skin. The holy water in the vessel is considered as bodily fluid and the dried grass placed on the vessels represent bones. The threads tied around the vessels represent the veins and the vessels are given life with the continuous recitation of mantras. The vessels are decorated with garlands, flowers, sandal paste and kum kum powder to get them ready for the Kalakarshanam, the ceremony where powers are transferred to the holy water.
According to Hindu scriptures (Agama Sastras), sixteen different forms of splendor exist in temple deities. As such, before these temple deities are moved from their existing place, their powers are transferred to holy vessels filled with blessed water. The decorated holy vessels protect the qualities of the deities while they are moved for renovations or reinstallation in a new temple. This ceremony marks the end of poojas (ceremonies) in the old temple and all subsequent ceremonies will be held at the new temple.
A ceremony conducted to ensure that the procession of holy vessels to the new temple is most auspicious. It is also carried out to see that the sanctity of the deities is properly preserved.
Procession of Kudams:
The decorated holy vessels charged with divine powers would be brought in procession to the new temple. When the holy vessels arrive at the new temple premises, they will be carried by the Sivachariars (high priests) to the sacrificial altar (yagasalai) designated for each deity.
The Yagasalai, where sacrificial rituals are conducted with an altar of fire, is now ready at the new temple. The holy vessels containing blessed water to be used for the Maha Kumbabishegam will be placed and sanctified here. In the morning and evening, religious verses will be chanted to continuously invoke the powers of the Gods into the holy vessels.
Once the holy vessels are placed at the yagasalai, deities are invoked in the fire (agni) of the fire pit (homa kundam) too. A ceremony called agni prathistha is first performed for beginning the fire for the fire pit (homa kundam). Deities are worshipped by offering in the fire pit various types of branches (samith) from the papal (arasamaram), mango, and jackfruit trees. Sweet items, fruits and ghee are placed as offerings in the fire. Priests recite special prayers (moolamantras) for each item of offering placed in the fire. The recitation of the prayers thousands of times increases the power of the deities invoked in the holy vessels.
Poornahuthi / Deeparathanai & Asirvatham:
Poornahuthi is the concluding ritual of each day’s fire rite (homam). Following the poornahuthi, the priests will ceremoniously wave a camphor lamp over the fire pit and holy vessels (kudams). Verses from the four religious texts (Vedas) are recited along with the singing of hymns (Thevarams). All devotees will be blessed with the recitation of blessings (asirvathams).
With 48 days of Yenthra poojas performed, the yenthrams or square gold sheets are now ready to be ceremoniously placed in the pedestals (pheedams) built at the new temple for each one of the temple’s deities. It is on these new pedestals that the deities (vigrahams) would be installed.
After the Yenthrastaapanam, devotees are given the opportunity to place nine precious stones (navaratnams), gold and silver rice and even personal pieces of gold jewellery on the gold sheets placed inside the pedestals. Devotees do this to have their all wishes full filled.
Ashtadhasakriyai for new deities:
Eighteen different types of invocations are performed for the deities to give them a gracious look. The deities are kept in grains of paddy (dhaanyarn), water (jalam), and flowers. The images are also left “resting” in new clothes on beds under blankets. Before the deities are fixed onto the pedestals, the all important ritual of Nayanonmeelanam where the eyes are fixed on the deities is done.
Ashtabhandhanam is performed by the chief sculptor (sthapathi) and it involves fixing the deities (vigraham) to their pedestals (pheedam) using a special adhesive paste and developing a bond between the two. Due to the corrosive
Service Charges for Pooja and Homams:
1) Special Abishegam/Poojai – $ 101.00
2) Special Abishegam/Poojai Additional deities (Each) – $ 51.00
3) Santhana Kappu Full (Each Deity) – $ 101.00
4) Santhana Kappu Full Face Only – $ 51.00
5) Homam (Each Deity) (2 Kinds of Prasadam provided) – $ 251.00
6) Sathru Samhara Trisathi Archanai for Sri Murugan $ 201.00
7) Navagraha Homam (9 Kinds of Prasadam provided) $ 301.00
8) Sri Saneeswarar Homam $ 251.00 (2 Kinds of Prasadam provided)
9) Navagraha Special Abishegam (1 Prasadam) – $ 201.00
10) Rudra Abishegam – $ 301.00
11) Auyushya Homam – $ 251.00
12) Mrithyunjaya Homam – $ 251.00
13) Mudikayiru – $ 2.00
14) Margazhi Thanurmatha Poojai – $ 51.00
15) Prayers for New Vehicle – $ 21.00
16) Kulanthai Thatham – $ 5.00
17) Annaprasanam (First feed for child) – 51.00
18) Vidyarambam (Individual prayers) – $ 51.00
19) Athmasanthi Pooja – $ 3.00
20) Sangu Abishegam – $ 301.00
Other Dieties Inside the Temple:
1) Sri Vinayagar
2) Arulmigu Velmurugan
3) Sri Gnanamuneeswarar
4) Sri Sivan & Visalatchi
5) Sri Ayyappan
6) Sri Muthumariamman
7) Sri Durgai
8) Sri Dakshinamoorthy
Velmurugan Temple Address:
Arulmigu Velmurugan Gnana Muneeswarar Temple
50, Rivervale Crescent,
Singapore – 545029.
Phone : 6294 6739
Fax : 6387 9638
Bus No : 371
Train : Take East Loop LRT from Sengkang MRT. Get down at Bakau or Rumbia LRT.