Panguni Celebration – Singapore

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.

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Panguni Celebration – Singapore

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

Mihintale – Sri Lanka

Mihintale is a mountain peak near Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. It is believed by Sri Lankans to be the site of where Buddhism started in Sri Lanka.
It is now a pilgrimage site, and the site of several religious monuments and abandoned structures.

The old monk keeping the image room of the dagoba on top of Mihintale hill

On top of the hill is a large Dagoba that can be seen from afar. A the back is the image room with its statue of reclining Buddha. This old monk invited us to have a look, leave our appreciation on the visitors look and offering. One opportunity to take the Hassie out of the bag.

The Daboba and prayer flags

The Rock opposite

Opposite le Dagoba is another rock which top one can climb, the surrounding landscape is breath taking, with a lot of water expanses that were man made if I remember well. You can also see old brick Dabogas under the vegetation.

The Buddha statue

A large statue of the Buddha can also be found on one side of the hill.

The Daboga at half height

This smaller Daboga can be found at half the height or the hill. At its back is a monastery.

Japanese Pilgrim

On our way down we met a group of Japanese Pilgrims chanting their way up the peak to spend the night at the monastery (so were we told). Apparently they come once a year for this.

Mihintale – Sri Lanka

Anuradhapura – Sri Lanka

Jetavana Dagoba

We spent our second day in Sri Lanka in Anuradhapura. This is a region of archaeological remains and Buddhists temples situated at the 2/3rds of the country height. Roughly 250 km from Colombo and 5 good hours driving from the airport due to the roadworks. It is not yet what used to be called the “north” during the civil war.

Thuparama Dagoba

There are many sites of interest around the region and according to our guide you can spend a couple of days cycling around visiting different dagobas and palace or monastery ruins.

Thuparama Dagoba

Other particular interest are the Sri Maha Bodhi, a Bodhi planted 300 years BC; the massive Jetavana Dagoba, The Samadhi Buddha Image, the nice cave temple called Isurumuniya Rajamaha Viharaya.

Lankaramaya Dagoba

“Dagoba” is the local word for Stupa, a religious building made to contain relics or remains (you cannot enter them). What is typical of Sri lanka are the stone pillars thatare surrounding the stupa. They were mean to support a long gone wooden roof.

Around the Sri Maha Bodhi

We stayed at Ulagalla resort a in between Anuradhapura and Kandi.

Anuradhapura – Sri Lanka

Thaipusam 2013 – The Nikon shots

This is a follow up of Thaipusam 2013 post.

All pictures below taken with Nikon D700, Nikkor 85mmF1.8D and 17-35mmF2.8. The place in Serangoon road does not have a very good light; it’s very dark prior to 9am; after this there is too much light coming from the side of the area as it had no walls (Appart when you are within the temple)

On Thaipusam afternoon I brough the Nikon F3 + 50F1.4 AIS loaded with a roll of Ilford 400 PAN. The results were not that great. We went to Tank Road were people finish the pilgrimage, chill out and dissemble the kavadis.
My favourite picture is probably the following , where the guy in the middle have someone remove the spike that goes through both his cheeks.

On the last shot below the Chinese pilgrims I met the morning have finished and pose for a group shot.

To my question “How do you feel?” their answer was “Happier”.

Thaipusam 2013 – The Nikon shots

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

Puja in Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple – Singapore

One of the last week-ends despite not feeling very well, I head to Little India without any special idea in mind and the Hassie in the camera bag. Having left my shoes outside I walk inside the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple on Serangoon road to find that a celebration (or puja) was held that day. I just had half a roll and could shot the following.

The is Rollei RPX 400 ASA film, the first roll I ever shot. I must say I quite like it the grain is very thin, quite good contrasts. I have a little stock of both 100 and 400 ASA of this film in 120 format in the fridge, I may buy some 35mm when I’m back in France. When back from the shop the film was quite flat and easy to scan unlike the Rollei Retro which is so curly

I am not sure if this is a set meal or an individual set of offerings for each participant; I did no stat that long to check.

One of the musicians or the ceremony at rest.


The chariot of the temple that rides out in the city for some special celebrations.

CameraHasselblad 500cm
LensCarl Zeiss 80mmF2.8 probably 1/60 F4
FilmRollei RPX 400 ASA
Digi-filmScan Epson v500+Epson Scan software + lightroom 3.6

Puja in Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple – Singapore