Singapore’s equatorial heat and humidity weren’t helping in our search for lunch in the Little India neighborhood. Nor was the traffic buzzing by on the noisy Serangoon Road.
But even with all these distractions, we still heard the mysterious horn and thumping drum a block away. We suspected that music this loud and distinctive certainly meant something significant was happening, and we were right.
The musicians were playing in the main hall of the incredibly colorful and ornate Vadapathira Kaliamman Hindu Temple. And to our surprise, the music wasn’t a performance but was a part of the daily ceremony honoring the Mother Goddess.
Etiquette for visiting holy places varies, but regardless of the religion, our policy is to be as respectful and unobtrusive as possible, particularly during a ceremony.
We had removed our shoes and were watching from just inside the back wall, when one of the praying devotees made eye contact with Terri, slowly blinked once, and made a very small head-nod inviting us to join. The invitation caught us by surprise and we weren’t certain what to do, but we moved up sheepishly and sat on the floor beside the praying women. The music was hypnotic, and we gazed into a gilded chamber as a statue was anointed with a milky liquid, while the women prayed silently beside us. What a marvelous experience!
When the ceremony was finished, our new friend and her mother lead us on a tour around the temple, explaining each statue and its significance. Food and incense offerings were at the base of each statue, and our guide explained that Hindus believe that if worshippers provide the Gods with the things they need, then the Gods will provide the world with what it needs.
Walking away in disbelief, we were as excited as a couple of kids on Christmas morning. For us, the experience was a rare insight into the Hindu faith, and no amount of reading could have equaled these few intimate minutes with truly kind believers. The memory will always be with us, and we will forever owe a debt of gratitude to yet another kind stranger we’ve encountered in our travels.
James & Terri