DON’T MESS WITH KALI – Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, Singapore

I was assured that Kali only does this sort of thing to people who've been very bad.



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.

The temple is somewhat overshadowed now.

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.

A blessing for the faithful.

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.

Here comes the bride...

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.

Many hands make light work.

Ganesha with the appropriate offerings of grass and flowers.

Charlotte pointed out Ganesha’s broken tusk, a reminder that not even gods are perfect. I like that idea.

He may not have been the most beautiful baby, but we love him anyway.

Kali, on the other hand, is inclined to sever heads and hands if people do something wrong.

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.

TRIP NOTES:

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 charlottechutours@gmail.com.

13 Comments

Filed under Art, Singapore

13 responses to “DON’T MESS WITH KALI – Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, Singapore

  1. Pingback: Goddess KALI – Veeramakaliamman Temple, Singapore | fernexpress

  2. Thanks for the pingback, fernexpress.

  3. Shiv

    Kali rocks. Her energy is so powerful, feminine, sexual. I once visited a temple dedicated solely to her worship and was overcome by it. My kinda gal.

    • This temple too is dedicated to Kali. Glad you like her, but steer clear of her when she gets offended – I’m not sure I like the way she’s depicted with her feet on the body of her consort.

      • supriyo

        You need to research about our god and goddess and about hindu and then comment about the subject.

      • Richard, thank you for the beautiful photos. I found your post while looking for Kali Ma.

        Echoing Supriyo’s comment from a couple weeks ago, I’d like to share my interpretation of Kali with you, or in other words, hijack your comment section for a moment. ;)

        The heads you see in Kali’s hand and around Her neck are the heads of demons (our own ignorance) she has slaughtered, not “people who have offended Her.” Kali’s brutality is the fierce and unrelenting clarity that cuts through our limitations and the attachments that are keeping us from waking up. She is the power of Reality that takes away whatever we do not need, like a snake shedding its old skin. I’m only beginning to get to know Her (lots of layers to slough off!).

        For myself, when I feel as shocked and uncomfortable as you seem to feel about Kali, I take that as a sign that I should look deeper into whatever is offending me and ask myself: what is that I’m reacting to here? If you do so, you’ll perhaps begin to learn that this entrail-eating mad blood-thirsty goddess of destruction is also revered as the sweetest, most tender Mother, every moment compassionately providing for all of Her children exactly what they need.

        Her “consort” is Lord Shiva. You may not like Her feet on Him, but you can observe the look of supreme contentment on His face as She towers over Him with Her lotus feet upon His heart. This is a most precious gift to Him. This profound connection, She and He. She is His own creative power and He is Her own feeling-consciousness. Together, they form this whole Reality: you and me, these screens we’re gazing into, the ground beneath us, the very air we breathe.

        Kali, Shiva, Ganesha – all of the different names for this One Reality – these forms are worshipped so that we can come (from many directions) to realize that we are each intimately connected with everyone and everything.

        Kali is fierce. I thank Her for that, because frankly, I need to have my treasured limitations ferociously ripped away sometimes or I would go on and on forever, without a clue about who I am or what life is really all about.

        So She cuts through and tears away. In this way, She loves and nourishes us. If the gods take notice of this comment, please, please don’t keep me away from Her. Please lead me straight to Her feet.

        Best wishes on your future travels, Richard.
        Jai MA,
        Nandi

  4. Amazing and powerful images, Richard. So glad you could visit and take pics.

  5. team harrop

    Hi Richard , we are traveling to singers a little later this year. I was wondering if your guide Charlotte is available for hire? Or if she was a friend?
    We would love her details if they are handy .
    Thx

  6. Thank you, Jai Ma for your thoughtful, detailed and informative comments above. As one raised as a Christian, I naturally know little about Hinduism and the Hindu gods. But I am interested in learning more, hence my visit to the temple in Singapore, with Charlotte as my guide.

    I’m now a devout atheist, but am fascinated by the way different cultures use religions as metaphors for the struggle we all (yes, even atheists) feel as we try to live good and meaningful lives.

  7. poisomivy

    That’s not Kali at the top, she’s more into slaying demons and drinking their blood than eating the intestines of humans.
    That’s Periyachi (though according to Wikipedia, she’s “associated” with Kali too.)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Periyachi

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