Thaipusam 2020 – What to expect

2019-05-M6-05-33I am by no means a specialist of Hindu religion, so please forgive any mistakes, I am happy to be corrected. This is a a small guide for fellow shutterbugs on what to expect on next Thaipusan day.

This year Thaipusam falls on 8th of February, it is a Saturday so there is no excuse for not going out and shoot ; and Thaipusam offers many different photo opportunities.

DSC_6791
The Chariot at Sri Thendayuthapani Temple (2013 Nikon D700)

The eve of Thaipusam, on the Friday, the Chariot of the temple will take Lord Murugan for a day’s visit to his brother Lord Vinayagar at Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple on Keong Saik Road. Along the route, he stops at several places, including Sri Mariamman temple on South Bridge Road (Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple), to greet the goddess within, a manifestation of his mother. He then continues on to see his brother.

Thaipusam 2010 Kodak Trix pushed 1600
On Clemenceau Avenue (2009 Nikon F4)

The Chariot leaves around 6pm and comes back around 9pm ; then it is parked in front of Tank road temple and visited by many devotees. Later in the night starts the Thaipusam procession : devotees start from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple (Serangoon Road aka SSPT) at 11.30pm.

Inside Sri Thendayuthapani Temple (2016 Leica M4 Cinestill 800)

Doors at Sri Thendayuthapani Temple (Tank Road aka STT) will open at 12.01am on 08/02/2020. You can enter the back of the temple and watch the priests opening the inner shrine, and then let the devotees came in and receive their blessings. The activity is quite low around that time but it gets busier around 2am.

2019-04-M6-04-30
2019 inside STT (Leica M6 Ilford Delta 3200)

Devotees will keep on leaving the Serangoon Garden temple until midnight on Saturday. My usual routine is to reach Serangoon Road temple before 8am. The sun is still very low and and the light inside the temple is dim. The temple and the nearby parking area are used to set-up the kavadis of the devotees and prepare themselves for the procession. Groups are constantly setting up, so no pressure to shoot. All of this happens under canopies to the light can be tricky.

2011 Inside SSPT (Nikon D700)

You can follow one group all the way to Tank Road, or walk a bit faster and move from group to group. Beware, when you reach Clemenceau Avenue, the only way to get inside the temple is to queue with the devotees until you reach the temple. I never did it 10 years, but if you do you will be able to enter the temple by the front door.

2013 Ready to go (Hasselblad 500CM)

If you are not that brave enough, you can walk along the queue of the devotees and arrive at the back of the temple. Where you can see devotees exiting the temple then arriving at the rest are and disassembling the Kavadis. Moments of rest and relief.

2013 After the procession (Nikon F3)

Finally if you go on the path of the procession at night you will see lighted-up kavadis!

I have no idea of what happens at both temples after the last devotee leaves or arrives

L1006570
2018 – Leica M262 – 35mm Summicron asph v2 

So plan for a great day : you can shoot from Friday 6pm to Midnight on Saturday.

A few advises:

  • The Chariot procession can be fun, especially if you spot it in town or upon its return to Tank Road. But chasing it may be complicated.
  • The evening when the temple at Tank road open is interesting, I have been two or three time, I may skip it this year
  • During the day I prefer going the morning like getting ready to shoot at 8am for a couple of hours
  • You can spent another hour at the disassembly area

Practical: the places will be busy, many visitors attend all stages of the event, and many buddy photographers, hot (but I never felt the need to bring water), and yo have to leave your shoes outside of the temples (I don’t mind, but you can also bring flip flops and put them in your bag)

Technical stuff: I shot with DSLR (from 17 to 200 mm), SLR, Leica film and digital and the Hasselblad. This is a busy event, so you don’t have much time to fiddle around. Last year I shot only with 35 and 50mm, with a couple of shots on 28. With 28 and 35 you get a lot of “noise”  in the frame, maybe something around 80mm would be nice if you want to shoot portrait or the actual  moment piercings are performed (I am a bit less interested in this now). People are super friendly but I avoid to be too a nuisance and to thrust your camera in people face, show some respect.

For film: I used 400 ISO for B&W in the temple in the morning , for the night events I used 3200 Kodak TMZ or Ilford Delta and Cinestill 800.

For more information you can visit the Hindu Endowments Board website https://heb.org.sg/

You can see some of my past posts on Thaipusam here.

Thaipusam 2020 – What to expect

BACK TO THE MONKEY GOD TEMPLE – With a roll of slides

2019_30_M6_19_38
The Sedan chair porter

This is a follow up of my last port about the Monkey God temple birthday  in Tiong Bahru. These pictures were taken with a roll of Provia 400F given to me by KC Eng. It is expired since 2008, but I did not check at the time and shot it at 400 with Leica M6 and Summicron 50.

2019_30_M6_19_32
The Lion dance

Ths shots were processed at Analog Lab and scanned at home ; they turned out quite okay. Maybe the overcast weather did not allow for a more reach color palette.

2019_30_M6_19_24
Dragon Dance
2019_30_M6_19_27
Dragon Dancer
2019_30_M6_19_35
Dragon Dancer
2019_30_M6_19_1
The musicians
2019_30_M6_19_18
The musicians
2019_30_M6_19_19
The lantern bearers
2019_30_M6_19_25
The lantern bearers
2019_30_M6_19_30
The lantern bearers
2019_30_M6_19_33
The lantern bearers
2019_30_M6_19_39
The lantern bearers

 

 

 

 

BACK TO THE MONKEY GOD TEMPLE – With a roll of slides

Back to the monkey god temple

2019-29-m6-18-32
Quality Lion dance that afternoon

Birthdays have the habit of coming back every year, so for the third time I think I find myself at the TIONG BAHRU QI TIAN GONG temple in the area of Singapore called Tiong Bahru for the birthday of the temple. One of my friends reminded me of the event and I was super happy it was at a time where I could attend.

2019-29-m6-18-31

This is a Taoist temple, a popular faith in Singapore among the Chinese population. I still don’t know much about the Taoist faith and practice, so i won’t try to explain it here. The spirits and gods have  a great place in the faith and they are honored through offerings like Chinese Opera, joss paper bonfires, ..

2019-29-m6-18-39

The celebration involved lions dances, a dragon dance troop, musicians, as above and below. Singaporeans say that Taoist are noisy. I think I have some old shots of the gentleman below.2019-29-m6-18-40

The person that looks to be the man in charge posing with the lions and some banners.2019-29-m6-18-372019-29-m6-18-35

Meanwhile across the street, the porters of the gods sedan chairs are taking some rest.

2019-29-m6-18-30

I shot 2 rolls of Tri-x (one above, one below this paragraph), one roll or Provia 400H (in between) and hundreds of digital pictures using the magic combo, Leica M6 for film and the M262 for digital; for lenses I brought the 50 cron, mostly on the M6, the 35cron mostly the M262 then. I also brought along the 90mm Elmarit for a few digital portraits.
2019-30-m6-20-0

At that moment the gods starts to be carried in 3 sedan chairs to the place where the bonfire will be lit.

2019-30-m6-20-1

Below some of the carriers of the three sedan chairs.2019-30-m6-20-2

I don’t know if they are really heavy but the guys are relaying each others regularly.

2019-30-m6-20-3

2019-30-m6-20-4

2019-30-m6-20-52019-30-m6-20-62019-30-m6-20-7

This write up is about the film shots and should be called “You are all my favorites”. It found very difficult to select between the shots. I have included the shots of the two Tri-x rolls, I will do another small article about the Provia roll which has its own story.2019-30-m6-20-9

We now arrived at the field where the bonfire will be lit, a small crowed is gathered. Led the the Taoist priests.2019-30-m6-20-142019-30-m6-20-15

2019-30-m6-20-162019-30-m6-20-172019-30-m6-20-18

One of the gods chair with the idol in the middle.

 

(You can read an oldest post here )

 

 

 

Back to the monkey god temple

The Alms ceremony – Luang Prabang Laos

L1003035

The alms ceremony in Luang Prabang is a unique ritual that makes the charm of this small city. It is a also a well know one and pictures of the monks lining the streets of Luang Prabang at 5am are famous worldwide. I could not attend it the first time I was there 10 years ago, but I made sure to see it this time.

L1003047

The little lady above lives on the other side of the street, where I am shooting from. The people on her right on the first picture are tourists (Korean, Thai, Chinese?) renting a stool, and buying alms from the merchants. So this has become a real touristic attraction, many stools are ready for Buddhist tourists or anybody who want to participate, and the non participating are legion.

L1003057

I try to keep a safe distance and show respects for the monks but as usual this is not the case for everybody. This is a bit frustrating, but I generally prefer to miss a shot than to fight or be a nuisance. All of this spoils a bit the ceremony for me, but it can be that I am just a tad difficult.

L1003063

I may stand corrected but what make it unique is the fact that monks from the 7 or so monasteries in town go out in the street to collect alms in procession, rather that visiting houses of people who will donate food.

2018-14-M6-06-007

If you are out in the street at 5h30 you can assist roughly to one hour of procession, and i f you follow the rules you can approach the monks up to 3 meters.

2018-14-M6-06-010

We were sitting on the pavement of the main street and it is quite busy. I think there may be many “spots”, like places  where the procession turns who may offer better photo opportunities, same from the exits of the monasteries of the path along the river.

L1003089

Outside of the center you will see random people waiting for monks from place to place, which surely would enable a closer encounter with this local customs.

2018-14-M6-06-012

Regardless of the crowd it is a great experience.

2018-14-M6-06-013

We enjoyed very much sitting opposite the lady-from-across-the-street as we regarded her devotion more authentic. But this is quite subjective and I don’t want to be judgmental.

L1003080

Flash photography is forbidden or course, so high end DSLR will probably have the upper hand here.

L1003070

For this lady renting stools and selling alms this is time to ring the end of the show.

L1003082

2018-14-M6-06-016

2018-14-M6-06-015

2018-14-M6-06-017

L1003096

Color shots taken on Leica M262 with 50mm F2 Summicron v5, Black and white taken with Leica M6 classic and Summicron 28mm F2 Asph on Ultrafine Xtreme 400ISO film.

 

The Alms ceremony – Luang Prabang Laos

Zhoujia Qingming

The Lion dance troupes from the Zhoujia style go each year to Bright Hill temple for Qingming celebration to honor their founder. The Zhoujia is a special form of Lion Dance, which is very energetic, founded in Singapore, there are very interesting videos on the history of this martial art, coming from the south China King-Fu. Mister Li, in his 80’s is he current master and the son (or grand son) of the founder

The Qingming or Ching Ming festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day in English (sometimes also called Chinese Memorial Day or Ancestors’ Day).

The troupes gather at the bottom of the slope getting up to one of the temple courtyards (for those who do not know Bright Hill temple, it is a massive compound), they run up one by one up the steep slope (and very sunny last week).

The lion dancers perform around the yard at the sound of drums and pray as different shrines before ending before a table laid with offerings. They then move aside and align waiting for the other troupes to parade as well. A total of 6 groups were present this day.

 

Afterwards there will be some common praying to the ancestor, Kung-Fu demonstration , a full minute of full strength drumming and a final tour.

Not very easy to shoot action with the Hassie.

Hasselblad 500CM+80mmF2.8
Cinestill 50D

Zhoujia Qingming

Kali Mata Mandir – Pathiala

Quite a different athmosphere from GURDWARA DUKH NIWARAN SAHIB when crossing the city we came upon the “Kali Mata Mandir” the “Black mother temple”.

L1000258

This beautiful temple is said to be very popular and we preferred to visit it in daytime, before the crowd.

L1000262

Devotees are already coming to offer they prayers and ask for the blessings of the black mother. With a bit of discussion with the priest I was allowed to take a couple of pictures of the Divine Mother Kali and the priests (The statue was brought back from Bengal in the 1900’s)

L1000266

The Kali shrine opens towards the outside of the compound; through it you enter a courtyard surrounding the temple below.

L1000268

At the back of Kali shrine is another shrine of what I believe being the goddess Jyoti; the Hindu goddess of light and the “Vel”. She is the daughter of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati and is closely associated with her brother Lord Murugan .

L1000269

L1000273

People of the temple are collecting offerings for various causes. I gave some rupees I had left for one of them, although I am not sure what it is for.L1000275

I had none for the next ones which were a bit unhappy about the fact.

L1000278L1000280

The part if the temple below contains an older Shiva temple that opens once a year only, an old local gentleman told us he visited it only once in his life.L1000285

Finally we found  a group playing music and singing in the temple hall; I cannot tell if they were playing for the gods or rehearsing for later ceremony, but they seemed to be very please of our short attendance.

L1000296

You can visit http://maakalidevimandirpatiala.com/ for more information

 

Outside the temple a rickshaw rider waits for customers

All shots Leica M262 with Summicron 50 or 28; Rickshaw rider is Leica M6, Cron 28mm and Kodak TMY400

Kali Mata Mandir – Pathiala

The Fire Dragon – Part 1

“it all started as a riot”

 

I felt very lucky last week when a friend of my wife told us a bout a fire dragon performance organized by a temple in Balestier area in Singapore. In 9 years here I have never seen such a thing and was very thrilled to see one.

The Fu De Gong temple is located in Kim keat lane, very easy to access by bus. I have been told by the friendly member of the temple that this is a taoist temple. I did not see the actual temple as we arrived at night fall and the premises were covered by the tent hosting the celebration.

There was maybe a couple of hundred people attending, on one side of the tent was a stage with a Cantonese opera (or wayang) on the other side a large shrine and in the middle an area for the performances.

When we arrived a very good quality lion dance was in process and we enjoyed for a good half hour until the riot begin. From the end of the road the Dragon was approaching; with music and flames; until it finally enters the tent (but that’s another story)…

The Fire Dragon – Part 1

Lao Sai Tao Yuan – A Chinese Opera – Singapore

Lao Sai Tao Yuan; is said to be the oldest troupe in Singapore performing Teochew  opera or Wayang.

These shows are generally performed for the 7th month or during Chinese thanks giving during the mid autumn festival.

They are particularly friendly and you can go backstage to take pictures while they dress-up and do the make up.

All shots with Nikon D700 and Nikkor 85mm F1.8.

Lao Sai Tao Yuan – A Chinese Opera – Singapore

Thaipusam 2013

The wheel of time made another full circle and the Hindu festival of Thaipusam is back again. as it is based on the lunar calendar it falls on a Sunday this year which is just great for having a look and taking pictures.

I wrote in the past about Thaipusam and you can find on Wikipedia some information about the meaning of the the celebration. Let’s just say that in Singapore it is a 4 km pilgrimage between Serangoon Road (in little India) to Tank Road, that devotees walk to thank the gods or to ask them for a favor (and then they will do it the following years to thank them). Pilgrims generally carry burdens, from simple pots of milks to heavy Kavadis. The most spectacular aspect of Thaipusam is that the Kavadis often pierce into the bearer’s flesh, but also some other piercing rituals are performed.

Beyond this, Thaipusam is a great opportunity to actually see faith in action. Apart from photography I am looking forward to this event for its atmosphere and just being there. A lot of spectators attend the event, and in Singapore it is a big photography circus.

The event follows generally this schedule:
– the day before, the Silver Chariot carrying a statue of the god, is traveled in town and comes back in the Tank Road temple, where people gather to pray.
– very early in the day itself, devotees go to the Serangoon road temple where they prepare themselves before the pilgrimage, involving the complex construction of Kavadis
– the pilgrimage itself is a 4 km walk to tank Road, Kavadi bearer dance to the sound of music and are supported by relatives
– In Tank Road, pilgrims go inside the temple to ge the blessing
– outside the temple is the area where Kavadis are disassembles and pikes removed from chicks, tongues, and other body part.

This year i was lucky enough to be able to go to Tank Road on the Saturday, then in the Sunday morning to see the first Kavadis being disassembled, then to Serangoon Road and then back to Tank road in the afternoon.

Serangoon road, between 8 and 10 AM is the best spot for me. Nicer atmosphere, enough light, same photographers I see every year.

This year I brought the Hasselblad and these are the Hassie shots you see with this post. It’s not so easy to shot moving people, but I think the keeper ratio for the 2 rolls is fantastic. I used some Rollei RPX 400 ASA film which I find also just great, the grain is so thin.

I also carried the D700 with a couple of lenses, that will be for the next post.

Camera: Hasselblad 500cm
Lens: 80mm F2.8 Planar
Film: Rollei RPX 400 Pan
Digifilm: Epson v500+Adobe Lightroom 3.6

Thaipusam 2013

Temple in Penang

Temple in Penang
Mosaic on temple roof in Penang

This is a close up shot of the roof of a temple in Penang (Malaysia). The mosaic is made of broken piece of coloured china bowls.

Picture was taken with the D700, I have brought along the manual focus zoom Angenieux 70-200 F3.5. Not as practical as the nikkor 70-210 F2.8D, but a bit lighter. I realy like the look of this picture, really film like; the vigneting is out of the box. One funny thing, the focusing works the opposite way to the nikkor lenses so your have to turn your focusing ring the opposite way to what the rangefinder indicates.

Camera: Nikon D700
Lens: Angenieux 70-200 F3.5
Post Processing: Lightroom 3.3

Temple in Penang