Another long post, but I don’t fill like splitting this story up, hey that’s my third post about Thaipusam this year.
On arriving at Farrer park MRT, we met our first Kavadi bearer.
And then more devotees waiting for the traffic light.
The little devotees
Then when moving inside the temple the devotees are assembling the Kavadis
or prepare their offerings
While others use their phones to snap their friends.
Pictures above are taken Ilford HP5 shot at box speed, I used not to be a big fan of this film, but actually I am very satisfied with these results. The pictures after are done with the Kodak TMY 400, not exactly my usual Tri-X, but i generally quite like it.
Actually I don’t see any difference, so I may shoot more of the cheaper HP5 going forward.
Still osculating but looking more steady.
All shots with Leica M6 Classic and most of them with the Summicron 35mm F2 AsphvII (the last version), processed at the usual lab (well dropped at Ruby and they get the usual guy do the work) and scanned at home with the Epson v800.
As per my recent post Saturday was Thaipusam ; Thaipusam is a Hindu ceremony to honor the lord Ram. In Singapore devotee carry burdens and pierce their flesh and walk a 4 km procession to thank the god or ask for a wish to be granted. Most devotees do it every year.I was loosely leading a small group of buddy photographers this year as Thaipusam is a great photography opportunity. Participants are very open, there are colors, action and emotions.
The procession has started at 7pm last night, and when we get at Farrer park MRT devotees are already walking along Sernagoon road, pulling or carrying their burden.
The most interesting part for me is getting inside the temple and assisting to the preparations.
The devotee above will carry a Kavadi.
The preparation starts with offerings as above.
Kavadi carriers often have chains or pots attached to their flesh , or spears as below.
Other devotees like the group below are carrying posts of milk along the pilgrimage road,
This guys is fainting of having trance.
This is the second year I see the man below.
After the Kavadi is set-up the cheeks and tong are pierced.
You can see fire, smoke and photographers (my friend Matte above)
Each devotee is accompanied by friends and family, giving a warm atmosphere of community, support, friendship.
On the way out many of the Kavadi bearers will dance before leaving the temple. This is a very impressive feat, I tried to capture this using a slow shutter speed.
The group below is one of the two groups of Chinese devotees I met over the years.
I was able to show them a picture of 2013.
Below is the other Chinese Kavadi bearer.
Thaipusam is a great opportunity to take pictures of members of the public as below.
Finally I got to Tank road temple for a few last picture. This is a great place to see the devotees getting rid of their Kavadi and piercings.
And for a final picture this man finally arrived looking grateful to his big friend (very big) who is taking care of him.
All these shots with Leica M262 and either Summilux 50mm v2, Summicron 35mm Asph v2, Elmarit 90mm F2.8 Oh I also had the M6 body and shot 2 rolls ; be ready for another post next week.
I 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Nearly one year ago, in January, I went to Tank road in the middle of the night to shoot a roll of Ilford Delta 3200 at the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple for the Thaipusam ceremony.
Thaipusam is a Tamil Hindu ceremony where devotees walk from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Little India to the temple in Tank road.
It is interesting to shoot the ceremony at both temples ; at Little India where they start the pilgrimage or here where they finish it.
I favor the little India location early in the morning ; it is already very busy, but manageable. But for a couple of years I go to Tank Road in the evening before ; it is general quiet, the action (if I can say so) is more subdued. Pilgrims flow through the temple, receive blessings and walk out.
At the back of the temple is a resting aera and pilgrim receive tea and nibbles.
This year I tried a roll of Ilford Delta 3200 with the Leica M6 and the Summicron 50mm version 5. The result is quite nice, the M6 does a good job once again, the light meter is working very well once again.
I rarely shot the Ilford 3200, but must say the result is quite good. The grain is nice but controlled, the contrast is good. As I said somewhere else I think high ISO film give good results if you scene has a minimum of contrast.
These were shot around 11pm, on the first evening, it is very quite just when the priest open the inner sanctum of the temple. Alternatively, you can come around on the next day and take pictures from pilgrims disassembling their Kavadis.
The inside on the temple of the day itself is over crowed and their is no shortcut, you have to follow the devotees from Penang road, I am not sure how long it will take. Surely a great experience, but you will need a good couple of hours.
Get ready I have 2 or 3 rolls of TRIX that I shoot the next day.
Get ready, this year the Thaipusam procession is expected to start from SSPT on 07/02/2020 from 11.30pm.
You can read more about the Fire Walking Ceremony in my post from 2014 (here). In short it is a Indian festival honoring the Hindu goddess Sri Draupadi, who is the wife of the five Pandava brothers who walked on hot coals to prove her purity.
Devotees go through a purification period and on the day of the festival they walk from Little India where they get blessing and protective amulets to the SRI MARIAMMAN TEMPLE in Chinatown where they walk through the coals of the fire pit. After this they go at the back of the temple where they discard they protection and offer to the god the beads necklace they wear since the beginning of the cleansing period.
This is the 3rd time I am going to the festival. As I mentioned in my last post, total respect to the devotees. I went in the evening as usual with my friend Matte Lim.
This is my second or third roll of this film. The first attempt was so so. This is supposedly a new film, replacing the old TMZ 3200 discontinued in 2012. I think the film works well for scenes with good contrast and some lighted parts ; if your scene is grayish you wont get much on the picture.
It was night when I attend the fire-walk festival but both places where I was had some heavy lights on parts of the scene.
The M6 is great for focusing in the night, even with my ageing eyes, also the metering is quite ok.
Most shots are done with 50mm Cron (v 5), maybe some with the 35mm Cron (Asph v2), as I swapped the lens between teh M6 and M262 at some point.
Processing was done by the usual lab and scanning at home with the Epson v800 , scanning is easy.
I like the grain, which is quite limited and pleasant imo (but my wife does not).
Quite a different athmosphere from GURDWARA DUKH NIWARAN SAHIB when crossing the city we came upon the “Kali Mata Mandir” the “Black mother temple”.
This beautiful temple is said to be very popular and we preferred to visit it in daytime, before the crowd.
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)
The Kali shrine opens towards the outside of the compound; through it you enter a courtyard surrounding the temple below.
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 .
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.
I had none for the next ones which were a bit unhappy about the fact.
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.
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.
So what happened since the March Photowalk? No pictures ? Well a bit of the contrary, I have been in a film frenzy and I now average 2 rolls a week, but then this takes a lot of time to process and there is little time left to put this us in a post. Also of course has there’s been a bit of travelling, but that will be for other posts…
So at the week after the March photowalk, on a Wednesday morning, was the celebration of Panguni.
Panguni is a Hindu celebration similar to Thaipusam (you can see my post for this year here). In Singapore it is held two lunar months after Thaipusam, in the Yishun area, at the Holy Tree Sri Balasubramaniar Temple.
Like Thaipusam it involves body piercing, carrying Kavadis, music, friends and family support.
It is always amazing from the outside to see people going through this ritual. But you can also find some laughter there.
Panguni is a lot smmaller celebration that Thaipusam and it is less crowded. A lot less photographers and onlokers as well. Some of the people I spoke to pput the emphasis on the local dimension of the ceremony.
Pictures are done with Leica M4 and M6, with Summaron 35F2.8 and Summilux 50F1.4v2, using Kodak Tri-X. I also shot some colours pics but they did not make it through the selection.
Nearly one month since the last post, unbelievable. And I have since shot some new film (and some more classic ones), been to India and back, I am so far behind on by processing and posting that it is difficult to know where to start. So maybe let’s start by the end: I have collected this week the two rolls I shot in India over the last holidays.
I brought with me the Agfa Isolette III that came back from repair in September; the camera is small and shoot 120 film. I just did two films in 10 days (actually only 20 shots); India is so overwhelming it is difficult to take the eye from the DSLR.
A quick word on the trip, but I will do a full summary later: we traveled from Calcuta to Benares (Varanasi) via Patna, Nalanda and Bodhgaya. These are amazing places, really worth the visit.
Nice encounter on the Ghats of Benares last week, two young film photographers from New Delhi, shooting with Olympus film cameras.
Buddhist monk outside the Mahabodhi Temple – Bodhgaya – India
The monk may be from Sri Lanka or Thailand from the color of his robes.
This holy place of Buddhism is full of monks and pilgrims meditating and a few tourists like us. Ask with a smile and they are all photo friendly.
Guy repairing his boat on the ghats of the Ganges in Varanasi.
Holy cow; there are really plenty of them in Varanasi, beware where you step.
Evening prayer to the Ganges river
Sahu at work; they are plenty in Varanasi as well, but less than I expected, they seems to be far more in Pashupatinath in Nepal.
Black and white pictures with Kodak Tri-x 400ISO, shots at 360 with a yellow filter.
Color pictures with Kodak Portra NC 400ISO, shots at 360 unfortunately still with a yellow filter, but the scanner corrected the colours nearly automatically.
All scanned with Epson V500, corrected in Lightroom.
Fire walking is a South Indian festival honoring the Hindu goddess Sri Draupadi, who is the wife of the five Pandava brothers who walked on hot coals to prove her purity.
This is the first time I can go to this ceremony. Total respect for the amount of faith, the sense of community and probably the amount of pain going on there.
The devotees arrive from Little India, a couple of km away in groups, some chanting, some with music, some singing and dancing.
They then arrive a few hundred meters from the Sri Maramiam temple and wait in a staging area. All of this is very well organized; groups are allowed to pass from one area to the next by the organizers in order to organized the crowed. Some devotees told me they were expecting 5000 people.
I have seem this man many times in Thaipusam in the past years, seeing these people years after years in the viewfinder is one of the attractions I find in photographing these events.
I asked one of the Hindu man in the public how do the devotees group themselves; he told me they are friends and make a kind of team that make each of them stronger and helps them going through the ritual. Like a sport team he told me, doing this on your own would be much more difficult.
I did not really thought I could enter the temple, but as I was close to the entrance, one of the organizer asked me if I wanted get inside. I removed my shoes and they even gave me a plastic bag to carry them and I was moved inside the temple. Actually there is a special track for visitors and a different one for devotees.
The track goes along the fire pit, and although we are asked not to stay there too long I could witness two men doing the ritual.
This one above, was walking very casually (so to speak).
This one was more in running mode, you will notice the flower petals he through in the air before starting.
Walking out of the main temple area, people are waiting and resting and going through other stations, I must admit I am ignorant of what the whole pilgrimage consist of after the fire walking itself.
Outside people are resting.
The ground of the temple is covered in yellow power, probably not saffron more likely curcuma, clearly these feet have been walking through fire.
I saw a few times some ethnic Chinese Hindu in Singapore, here is one who was looking to be quite in pain,
I hope you enjoyed this post.
For my Hindu friends if you find a picture of yourself and you are not happy with that, let me know and I will remove it from this album, if you like them, let me know I’ll be enchanted. I am never sure if my schedule allowed but I would really enjoy meeting one of the groups and following you over an extended period of time to produce a photo-book of some sort.
Needless to say that these picture for my own interest in photography and the pleasure of sharing. They are a not for commercial use.
On a side note: I am a donkey sometime; when I pass at the temple on the afternoon I see this older gentleman of a photographer that I meet every year at Thaipusam. Not only did I not take his portrait but I did not ask for his contact. He carries a Nikon F5, if somebody knows him let me know.
Camera: Nikon D700 Lens: Nikkor 85mm F1.8D, only the first one is done with the 17-35F2.8AFS