Eve of Vesak Day in Brigh Hill temple – Singapore

For Buddhists Vesak Day marks the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. This is my very first time at Bright hill temple ; it is a huge compound in the center of Singapore.

Bright Hill temple also known as Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery, is famous for the “3 Steps 1 Bow ceremony” on the eve of Vesak Day.

Above are monks who are opening the procession. The ceremony starts at 5pm and takes 2 and half hours to complete ending with the monks back in the main hall blessing the devotees with water.

Monks are followed by lay people who will queue all evening and a big part of the night. One people I know said he will go at 3am.

Below people queuing at the start of the procession

 

The main halls are also the occasion to pray and give offerings; mostly candles.

During the day itself, ritual is generally the bathing of the Buddha.

Most shots done with Leica M262 and Summicron 28mm, close ups with Elmarit 90mmF2.8.

Some film shots (with black border) done with Leica M6 on Fuji Xtra 800ISO with same lenses.

How to get there: Bright Hill is quite central  (like in the middle of the island) but may take some time to reach. You can get a bus there (check gothere.sg) which will take close to one hour from CDB or take a cab (more of less 15 SGD).

Devotees and temple staff are quite photo friendly, so as long as you are decently dressed and don’t go in the middle of ceremony you feel welcome to shoot. There is actually a small crowd of photographers.

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Eve of Vesak Day in Brigh Hill temple – Singapore

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

NORTH THAILAND TRIP – PART 2 – WAT PHANAN CHOENG – AYUTTHAYA

The first place we wanted to visit was Ayutthaya an ancient capital, which also happen to be   a very busy industrial city, 90 KM north of Bangkok. We decided to sleep close the the airport (at the Novotel, so actually in the airport), and hire a driver and a guide for the day.

Ayutthaya has many interest, but mostly the Royal Palace and many temples. I have not posted any pictures of the Royal Palace, but actually it is not uninteresting. The vast compound is still supposed to be used today by the Royal Family. Constructions are of varying styles, and if your guide is knowledgeable and chatty as ours this makes for a nice visit.

Now more interesting are the temples; as in many big Thai city there are dozens of them; but due to time constraints we only visited 4; each very different.

After the visit of the Royal Palace, we headed to Wat Phanan Choeng. This is a big temple, famous for its (very) large, statue of sitting Buddha. This is a very busy temple specially on week ends; I am not sure if it is permanent but the day we visited the temple devotees were offering new orange robes for the Buddha. A extraordinary occasion to experience the devotion of Thai people.

Next we headed for lunch but nothing worth mentioning.

NORTH THAILAND TRIP – PART 2 – WAT PHANAN CHOENG – AYUTTHAYA

Alms ceremony at Wat Palelai – Singapore

Someone at the photo lab tipped me that Saturday that the next day, there will be an alms ceremony at Wat Palelai, a Thai Buddhist Temple located in Bedok, in the east of Singapore.

Devotees stood around the yard of the temple and gave their offerings to the monks who made a procession around the yard.

Later the monks gathered at their dining room.

There was 30 to 50 monks for the ceremony but I think only 5 are permanently staying  at the temple. Others are going through a temporary monk-hood.


This day was the fiftieth Singapore National Day, happy birthday Singapore. The ceremony was interrupted by the singing of the national anthem at 9am.

It was very nice to discover this temple and be able to attend this ceremony. I also met two people who always hang around the photo lab, so we could have coffee and chit chat a moment after the ceremony was over.

All black and white pics with Leica M6 and either 35mmF2.8 or 50mmF1.4. Film is Rollei RPX 400ISO. Scanned at home with Epson v500.

Color pics with the old faithful Nikon D700 with either the 85mm F1.8 or the 17-35 F2.8.

Alms ceremony at Wat Palelai – Singapore

Calcutta – The potters colony

The first stop of our fourth trip to India was Calcutta, or Kolkata as it is called now.

At first I was very excited to go to India at the period of Diwali the festival of lights, but it turned out that is is more a private event celebrated at home than something you can experience in the street. True, the cities were all lighted-up and people were busy shopping for lights and decorations for their homes. Actually, that week was just after the Durga puja which is a popular celebration in West Bengal, but also the week of Kali Puja which is another big celebration in the area. And particularly in Calcutta.

If we were first struck on the night of our arrival by the number of people sleeping in the street, we were also very surprised to see number of bamboo structures being erected across the city. This, were we told, was for the construction of temporary temples for the upcoming Kali puja.

The next day one of the highlights of our tour was the “potters colony” or Kumartuli. I did not do much research before and was afraid to be inflicted one of the pseudo artisanal attractions you see from time to time. It turned out that the potters colony is the place where these craftsmen are building statues of deities (or idols as our guide reffer to them) for the various celebrations of the hindu year. That week all the colony was busy making statues of Kali for the upcoming festival.


The highly decorated statues present Kali, with a necklace of severed demons heads that she defeated but also stepping on her husband Shiva, she generally has her tongue sticking out. The explanation we were given can also be found on wikipedia:

Once Kali had destroyed all the demons in battle, she began a terrific dance out of the sheer joy of victory. All the worlds began to tremble and sway under the impact of her dance. So, at the request of all the Gods, Shiva himself asked her to desist from this behavior. However, she was too intoxicated to listen. Hence, Shiva lay like a corpse among the slain demons in order to absorb the shock of the dance into himself. When Kali eventually stepped upon Shiva, she realized she was trampling and hurting her husband and bit her tongue in shame.

It is difficult to imagine that so many statues will found someone to buy them; but they actually do. Strolling through the colony you can see statues of various shapes, colors and sizes; but all describing the same scene. You will see idols at various stages of their completion, from gross straw shapes, to fully finished ones. Most of the statues will have their head covered if they are not finished. Artists are painting the fine details of eyes or decorations, some even using spray paint for shades.

All pictures with Nikon D700 + Nikkor 17-35F2.8D, I use a polarizing filter mostly all the on this lens.

Calcutta – The potters colony

Fire Walking Ceremony – Sri Mariamman Temple – Singapore

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

Fire Walking Ceremony – Sri Mariamman Temple – Singapore

A Chinese Thanksgiving – Singapore

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There was a Chinese Thanksgiving in front of Ngee Ann City on Orchard road in Singapore. That was a good occasion for the test roll of the The Leica IIIc which is back from the shop with a new curtain.

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A Chinese Thanksgiving - Singapore

These are small sculptures on a boat, I am not too sure (how Singaporean) of the meaning.

 

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Uncle watching the musians

 

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Old people folding joss paper to be burned later in offering to the ancestors. I asked once about the significance of the folding and was told it is to make it easier to burn. But there may be another meaning.

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Camera:Leica IIIc
Lens: Summitar 50mmF2
Film:Kodak trix 400ISO

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