Reaching out to more devotees

Reaching out to more devotees

IN JANUARY, community leaders at the tea with tabla! session with the Gujaratis raised the need for temples in Singapore to have priests who can speak Hindi. Tamil Murasu chairman

S. Chandra Das brought this request up to the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB).

Now, Sri Sivan Temple has brought in its second Hindi-speaking priest, a man who can also speak Tamil and Telugu.

The Sri Sivan Temple's presiding deity is Lord Shiva, otherwise known as Vishwanathan. The temple moved to its present Geylang East location in 1993, though it was first rebuilt as a solid structure in the 1850s in Orchard Road, where the present Dhoby Ghaut MRT station stands.

The Sivalinga, the representation of Lord Shiva used for worship in temples, was worshipped at the Orchard Road site long before the temple was built.

The temple draws an increasing number of north Indians like Sindhis, Punjabis, Gujaratis, Marathis and Marwaris, explained the temple management committee's vice-chairman Venkatesh Narayanaswamy.

Devotee Anuja Venkatesh has been going to the temple for at least 15 years. "It is a beautiful temple," she said, adding that the presence of Lord Shiva felt quite powerful there.

Because of its popularity with north Indians, the demand for the services of the existing Hindi-speaking priest, who can perform funeral rites, was growing.

The temple's management committee decided that it was time to bring in a second priest who is fluent in the language, said Mr Narayanaswamy, who also heads the HEB's religious committee.

Priest Guru Prakash Sharma, who hails from Panruti in Tamil Nadu and is fluent in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi, spent 12 years as a priest at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi before coming here. The 38-year-old priest picked up Hindi during his time in Varanasi.

Finding the right priest was hard, said

Mr Narayanaswamy, adding that because some are also superstitious about travelling across the seas, it is harder to coax them out of India. The new priest was invited to join the Sri Sivan Temple as the management was looking for someone with his expertise.

As he was from the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, many of the traditions from there could also be replicated at the Sri Sivan Temple.

The new priest has been here for less than a month, and already temple devotees are responding positively.

Real estate agent Ira Mehra, who comes from Delhi, has been coming to the Sri Sivan Temple for close to 20 years. She finds that having a priest who can speak Hindi makes prayers easier. "At the end of the day, prayer is prayer, but if you can understand what's going on, it's easier," she said.

With a total of seven priests, the Sri Sivan Temple is looking to add one more Hindi-speaking priest in future.

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