Sunday, December 12, 2010

Indians in Chinatown Walking Tour [11/12]

I stumbled upon the Preservation of Monument Board (PMB) website and that they actually have November and December Holiday Walking Tours around places of interest in Singapore. The guided tour is free and it can be registered online. I managed to sign up for it online before registration is closed.

We rendezvous at the bus stop directly opposite the Sri Mariamman Temple at 2.45pm. The walking tour commenced at 3pm and we have our tour guide below. She is a volunteer tour guide with PMB and is from Switzerland. I am very impressed by the in-depth knowledge she has about the different religions, the history of Singapore and the story behind the places of interest.

We begin the first stop with the Jamae (Chulia) Mosque. Below, she is explaining to us how the Indians come to Chinatown. This area has been gazetted by the first resident Farquhar to be the Chinese area.

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Thereafter the typical external design of a mosque is explained. The colour green is frequently used in Islam as it symbolises the oasis (in a desert). There are the two towers shown below and towers are also frequently used in the desert to direct people in different directions (similar to lighthouse of the seas). Then there is also the dome which is part of the architectural design. Domes have been in use since Roman times and is part of the architectural design from the Mediterranean region.

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We crossed over the road (via traffic light) and arrived at Mosque Street. The name says it all, there is a mosque here.

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There is this plaque next to the entrance of the mosque.

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Footwear have to be removed and we entered the mosque. It is in stark contrast to the outside. The mosque is so quiet and peaceful. In the mosque, our guide explain to us the 5 pillars of Islam and also the different layout and design to this mosque. It feels very Zen-like.

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Here are the different times.

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The main prayer hall is shown below.

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The mosque is actually very large. Though it looks small and narrow from the entrance, visitors can actually walk quite a distance in to a very quiet sanctuary part of the mosque.

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After the visit to Jamae Mosque, we come to the Sri Mariamman Temple. The Chinese call this the Pagoda Street (as there is an Indian Pagoda). In constructing a temple, there is a need for fresh water. After searching around for a good spot, they finally decided on this place.

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Indian temples normally taper towards the top as it will give visitors a sense that it goes high up into the sky.

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Here we have the tour group looking up.

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Footwear also have to be removed before entering. She told us to enter using the right foot as it is auspicious. A here is our guide explaining to us on how the temple is built. The temple has to be refurbished (re-consecrated) every 12 years. The design is shaped similar to a mandala and she show us a picture of a mandala. When entering an Indian temple, all our senses can be used to interact with the surroundings.

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Thereafter she explained to us the paintings at the top of the temple. It shows the evolution, the different avatar of Vishnu. There is also the Buddha who is said to be an avatar of Vishnu. The animals we see in the paintings are also symbolic. Each element represent a psychological dynamic of the human mind.

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We walked round the compound.

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Here are the coconut offerings.

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The Hindus also believe in the one God and that there are many different representation of the one God in order to relate closer to the people.

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Here is the tour group again.

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A tall pole which is used for ritual.

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This temple is dedicated to Sri Mariamman.

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Here we have a holy man getting ready for a ritual.

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The tour ended at 4.15pm.