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Saraswati Puja – A Visual Journey of Navaratri in Singapore

Experience the spiritual divinity of the final night of Navaratri at Sri Mariamman Temple through these spectacular pictures.

Manges Eravanan | October 14, 2016

Indian Festivals  

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On the ninth day of Navaratri, Goddess Saraswati is worshiped by Hindus through the observance of Saraswati Puja. She is believed to be the bestower of intellect, success in education and the fine arts. It is common for students and teachers to seek blessings on this day from the Goddess for greater accomplishments in their educational pursuits.

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The Iconography of Goddess Saraswathi has her dressed in a white saree with four hands. The white saree symbolises purity and higher divine aspirations. She plays a traditional Indian string instrument known as the Veena or Veenai which represents the fine arts and different forms of creative expression. She holds a stack of palm scripts with another hand which represent the Vedas (sacred Hindu texts) and all forms of knowledge. On her fourth hand she holds a string of beads known as the Japa Mala used for chanting which symbolises the pursuit of spirituality.

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Bangle offerings decorate the deity for blessing before being distributed to female devotees at the end of the Puja. In Hindu tradition, glass bangles are symbols of auspiciousness and power. The sounds made by glass bangles tapping one another is believed to have the power to ward off negative energies.

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A cultural group gathers for a Carnatic singing performance. During the nine nights of Navaratri, many traditional arts groups and schools around Singapore, showcase their performances to a large audience that gathers at the temple. Performances include; instrumental ensembles showcasing traditional Indian instruments like the flute, tabla, veenai etc., Carnatic singing where classical songs are sung in praise of the Gods and Bharatanatyam performances which are a set of dances that usually depict scenes from Hindu epics.

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A priest shows the sacred fire to a statue of Goddess Durga. Durga is an important deity for the festival of Navaratri. She is believed to have defeated the demon Mahishasura over a nine day battle which is celebrated as Navaratri every year.

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A set of special pure silver lamps are lit in preparation to be shown to the deity in sanctum. This set is usually used on special occasions and important festivals. The lamps are made in the shape of key weapons and instruments used by the Hindu Gods to dispel evil and encourage goodness and spiritual pursuits.

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A Chakra lamp lit before it is shown to the deity of Goddess Saraswati. This is one of the grandest lamps in the set and represents the spinning wheel weapon used by the gods to slay the heads of egoism and other evil thoughts that exists in the world.

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On special occasions, the temple is grandly decorated with colourful garlands, cloth umbrellas and brilliant bright oil lamps to add vibrancy to the celebrations.

Sri Mariamman Temple

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A glimpse of the sanctum of Sri Mariamman, the main deity of the Sri Mariamman Temple located on South Bridge Road. The Goddess is believed to be the bestower of rain and provider of natural healing. She is worshipped in many parts of rural South India.

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A priest shows the sacred fire to the main deity at the altar. This lit lamp is then brought to devotees to receive blessings. The practice is for devotees to use both their hands to get the heat of the fire and bring it to their eyes three times. Fire or Agni is believed by Hindus to be a medium of transfer between the earth and the heavens and vice versa as it exists in 3 realms; on earth as fire, in the atmosphere as lightning and in space as the Sun. Therefore the fire that is shown to the deity brings blessings from the Gods to the devotee who receives it with their hands.

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Streams of devotees gather in front of the main Sanctum to pray for their well-being and receive blessings from the Mother Goddess.

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A priest applies Santhanam and Kumkumam Pottu or Chandan Kumkum Tilak on the forehead of a devotee as a form of blessing.

Santhanam is a paste made of Sandal wood powder which is very fragrant and has cooling properties. While Kumkumam is a red coloured powder usually made of saffron and turmeric. It is believed that applying Santhanam paste on the forehead between the eyebrows encourages the ‘cooling’ of the angry ego, suppresses aggression and promotes peaceful, spiritual thinking. The Red Kumkumam is a symbol of Goddess Devi who provides protection from negative forces and thinking.

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Special offerings being taken on a procession around the temple before being placed at the altar.

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A temple volunteer carries a fire torch and leads the procession around the temple. This is a practice brought over from rural India where lights were uncommon and lit torches were necessary to illuminate the path.

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The Head priest of the temple address the devotees in the temple, explaining the rituals being performed and gives announcements on upcoming festivals/prayers at the temple.

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A Kuthu Vilakku or Bronze oil lamp burns brightly in the temple premises. Lamps are lit as a symbolic ode to divine knowledge and the dispelling of darkness which represents our ignorance.

All images are courtesy of The Infinite Moments. Follow the page on Instagram here

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Manges Eravanan

Manges is a passionate people person. She topped her South Asian Studies classes in college, concentrating on the history and traditions of her roots. She also spent a year living in India teaching orphaned children and discovering more about the land of her ancestors. Today, sharing her culture through writing is an important part of her life. Other articles by this author

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