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
What a priceless experience you had.
Yvonne, it’s certainly one we’ll never forget. We always try to stay in the shadows in these situations, and to be invited in was a delightful surprise. And as you say: priceless. ~James
Sounds like an amazing experience. Also what amazing photos. Such a stunning temple x
Thanks Danni. I absolutely love Hindu temples. And when the weather is right, they’re the most photogenic buildings on the planet. This one was particularly colorful and intricately designed. ~James
What an experience! Traveling to a foreign country often puts us in an awkward situation because of our curiosity. Kindness of the locals not only saves us from embarrassment, but also enlightens us about the place we’re visiting or a ceremony we’re watching.
As always Bama, a perceptive comment from a very experienced traveler. Like you, we’re curious travelers, but we try our best to be sensitive and not intrude – particularly in the case of religious ceremonies. The fact that we were invited in was a wonderful surprise, which provided an illuminating glimpse into the culture. ~James
Oh, how I love this kind of experience when travelling. If only we could all have them, I think the world would be a much more peaceful place!
Lynn, I respect and can certainly understand why people want their religious ceremonies private, which made this kind and generous gesture even more special. It was informative and educational without the proselytizing that sometimes comes with religious conversations. ~James
Is there anything better than connecting with a local when traveling? I had goosebumps at the description of your special tour. What a memory for both of you indeed! I really enjoyed the video clip and hearing the music. So much color and detail in the structure. What a find!
Sue, it doesn’t surprise me that you feel this way about connecting with locals, because I remember a number of your posts based around this very thing. It’s hard to describe to people who don’t travel, but you and Dave know from your experiences that it’s magic when it happens. BTW, it’s pretty funny that you mentioned (and bless your heart – enjoyed) the video. I love playing around with video and I use iMovie. And believe it or not, this video was edited. I only do it often enough so that I have to totally relearn the process every time. I think that I worked longer on the video than all the rest of the post. Ah well … it’s part of the fun of blogging. 🙂 ~James
James we are really doing a lot more video. If not always on the blog then on social media. We are finding that readers love it, especially if one of us is talking. Perhaps readers feel more connected. Best of all Dave does all the video and editing! He has his trusty GoPro. anyway I will be watching for more from you. 🙂
What a wonderful thing to happen and a very special insight into another world.
As you know well Jo, travel is only partially about the place. Without the people there would be no place. And I maintain that every single day, in every single place people do things that are interesting. And this encounter was a wonderful example. ~James
What a wonderful experience!
It’s happenings just like that, which are forever etched in people’s minds when one think back on the wonderful places one has been.
I’m sure it will stay with you for a long time 🙂
You’re right Anne. We all travel for the museums, palaces, cathedrals and historical sights. But experiences like this truly burn themselves into our minds – never to be forgotten. And that’s a big part of what travel is all about. ~James
Yay, Singapore! I miss it every day. I always found people at the Hindu temples to be very welcoming and inclusive, just as you’ve shared here. Great post!
Kelly, I was hoping that you might check in on this post. We’ve been to Singapore a few times, but for some reason, missed this temple on previous trips. Strangely, it doesn’t seem to be on the list of sights. Which is pretty weird, given how fabulous it is. And I’m not surprised that you miss living in Singapore. ~James
Singapore…I haven’t been there in years, but know it like the back of my hand. And what a great experience…don’t you just love it when this happens? People can be so kind sometimes, so giving. Makes you wonder what’s going on elsewhere. Or hopefully, makes you forget? Great shots, nice light. I have CD’s of Hindu music, I’ve often wondered what instrument that is that sounds like an out-of-tune violin…did you see it?
Thanks BF. I’ve been to Singapore a few times and really enjoy it. It’s such a wonderful combination of the very old and very modern. Good question on the violin. There were three musicians, but I only noticed the horn and drummer. The violin sound has to be some sort of bowed instrument, but not sure which one. It certainly is (to my western ears) an eerie sound. ~James
Eeerie sound is right. I actually don’t like it on the CD I have. But I always wonder what makes that sound…sort of like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.
What a very special experience, James.It’s always so interesting to interact with strangers, and you certainly learned a lot about the Hindu beliefs. Great set of photos too. 🙂
Sylvia, I’ve never seen a Hindu temple that wasn’t incredibly colorful and photogenic. It’s interesting that their religious architecture includes so much color and detail. The buildings really are feast for the eyes. ~James
Yes, I so agree with you. 🙂
Wow, the temple is stunning! A once in a lifetime experience-thank to the kindness of a stranger.
This really was a fabulous experience Laura, and we’ll never forget it. It’s also special that it all happened with absolutely no planning on our part. And I think of all the times we plan on seeing cool stuff, and something like this just happens by being in the right place at the right time. As I always say, luck counts too. ~James
An incredible experience, one you will remember fondly forever. It is amazing how someone will pick you out from the crowd and share. I love when this happens and it makes travelling so rewarding.