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Sri Mariamman Temple: All about the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore

The 190-year-old national monument is in South Bridge Road, at the end of rows of shops peddling souvenirs to tourists

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Sri Mariamman temple, singapore, Wikimedia

Singapore, May 1: The ornate Sri Mariamman temple, a yarn woven into the rich tapestry of Singapore’s history was the only place with priests who could solemnise Hindu weddings in Singapore in the early days. The national monument in South Bridge Road is at the end of rows of shops peddling souvenirs to tourists, is nearly 190 years old.

Government clerk Naraina Pillai who accompanied the founder of modern Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles, on his second visit to the island in May 1819 established the temple in Chinatown. He had been working with the East India Company and sought to get its current site at South Bridge Road from the colonial authorities in 1823 with the purpose of serving early Indian settlers.

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The Hindu temple, founded in 1827 is the oldest in Singapore. Its mere presence in the area adds an additional layer of history and heritage to the cultural precinct.

According to Mr S. Nallathamby, 58, Sri Mariamman is one of three religious institutions in the area; the others being the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Jama Mosque.

The chairman of the Sri Mariamman management committee said tourists are very much more interested in the temple for the full cultural experience. On a good day, at least 500 tourists can be found inside the sacred premises of the temple. He said, “This is where the most tourists will come by because they get to see all the three religious institutions along the same stretch of road. Our temple is unique in our design and set-up”.

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Spanish tourist Tania Folgueza, a 29-year-old engineer, agreed and admitted to having wandered into the temple after listening to its drums sounding evening prayers on Tuesday. “It was nice. It’s a whole different world and very different from Europe, which is mostly dotted with churches and cathedrals,” she added.

Mr Nallathamby pointed out that the temple is venerated by the local Hindu community. The statistical report of visitors presented by him states that “between 100 and 200 devotees visit the temple on weekdays, while between 500 and 700 are there on Fridays and weekends”. “The temple is the focus for all aspects of everyday life in the Hindu community – religious, cultural, educational and social,” he stated.

“The temple is the focus for all aspects of everyday life in the Hindu community – religious, cultural, educational and social,” he stated.

According to the report by The Straits Times, it is largely believed by the Hindus that the deity goddess Mariamman can cure illnesses and epidemics. One-month-old babies are brought to the temple for prayers and blessings. Early migrants, who moved here to work during colonial times set up a temple dedicated to the merciful and powerful deity, said Mr Nallathamby.

According to the archives, mostly Indian convict labourers were involved in the construction of the oldest sections of the existing brick structure of the temple constructed in 1843. It is believed that a large part of the present monument was built around the early 1860s. But the ground plan of the temple has not changed since 1843.

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The structure was gazetted by the National Heritage Board (NHB) gazetted in 1973. NHB noted that its original three-tiered gopuram, the tower at the entrance of the temple was replaced by its existing ornate five-tiered structure featuring Indian sepoys from the British Raj standing guard with their rifles at hand in 1925.

When Theemithi, the famous fire-walking festival, comes around in October or November every year, the temple becomes the hub of activities and festivities. This tradition has been going on for more than 170 years. Devotees start their 4km procession from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road to Sri Mariamman Temple as part of the celebrations.

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NHB did not forget to mention the highlight of the celebrations; the fire-walking ceremony during which thousands of male devotees walk barefoot across a bed of burning charcoal before stepping into a pit of milk.

The temple has gone through a number of modernization processes in some of its services such as live streaming of webcasts of its major events for the past four years. The temple management mentioned that prayer requests come in from people all over the world.

Mr Nallathamby was appointed as the chairman of the temple management committee in 2014. He talked about how his ties to the temple go back a long way. As a child, he used to drop by the temple every Friday. He also remembers the early days, when the place did not have paved stones and used to be full of sand where he would play.

Mr Nallathmaby cited, “I grew up in this neighbourhood and have been visiting the temple for the last 40 years. Never did it come to my mind that (one day) I would lead the temple. I find joy and meaning in life when I help the community run the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore.”

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang

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Halimah Yacob is Singapore’s First Woman President, Elected Without a Vote

"I am a President for everyone," said the newly elected Halimah Yacob, whose post is more representative than executive

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Halimah Yacob
Halimah Yacob who was the only candidate to get eligibility certificate, is now set to be Singapore's next President Wikimedia

Singapore, September 13, 2017 : Halimah Yacob became on Wednesday the first woman President of Singapore, being the only candidate who met the requirements for the presidential elections.

However, Yacob’s selection was overshadowed by criticism that it was undemocratic to give her the top post without a vote. Halimah Yacob, a 63-year-old Muslim of Malay descent, will take her oath of office on Thursday in a ceremony due to be held in Istana, the presidential residence and office, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s office said.

Yacob was the only presidential hopeful among three potential candidates to qualify for the post. This year’s election was reserved for Malay candidates. Two other contenders, businessmen Mohamed Salleh Marican and Farid Khan, did not meet one of the minimum requirements to run, Channel NewsAsia reported.

Yacob, accompanied by her husband and greeted by about 750 supporters, spoke outside the People’s Association building and called for unity in a speech delivered in English and Malay.

“We need every Singaporean to stand together shoulder to shoulder … we have not reached the peak yet and the best is yet to come,” Yacob said, urging citizens to “focus on the similarities that we have and not on the differences.”

In 2016, Singapore’s Parliament approved a constitutional reform which stipulated that the presidential elections would be reserved for one of the ethnicities of the multicultural city-state if no candidate from this group has occupied the post in the previous 30 years.

“I am a President for everyone,” said Halimah Yacob, whose post is more representative than executive.

Yacob was born in 1954 to a Muslim Indian-origin father and a Malay mother.

The mother of five started her political career with the People’s Action Party (PAP), which has been governing the country since 1959, and entered the Parliament in 2001.

She secured her first portfolio in 2011, as State Minister of Community Development, Youth and Sports, and became the Speaker of Parliament in 2013.

In August 2017, Halimah Yacob stepped down as Speaker and resigned from the PAP to be able to run for President. (IANS)

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JY Pillay: Indian Origin Civil Servant Appointed as the Acting President of Singapore

As CPA Chairman since 2005, Pillay has been acting President each time the President goes on an overseas trip

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Acting President of Singapore
JY Pillay. Youtube
  • JY Pillay has been appointed as the acting President of Singapore
  • Pillay, also the Chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers, is a veteran civil servant of Indian Origin
  • The Singapore polls take place on 23rd September

September 2, 2017: Indian-origin veteran civil servant JY Pillay on Friday took over as Singapore’s acting President until a new head of the state is elected later this month.

The temporary appointment of Pillay, Chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA), follows the completion of President Tony Tan Keng Yam’s six-year term on Thursday, the Strait Times reported.

The nomination day for the Presidential election is September 13, followed by polling day on September 23.

According to the report, when the office of President is vacant, the first in line to exercise its powers is the CPA Chairman, followed by the Speaker of Parliament. This is the first time the office has fallen vacant since the elected presidency was introduced in 1991.

Pillay is no stranger to exercising the powers of the President. As CPA Chairman since 2005, he has been acting President each time the President goes on an overseas trip. He acted as President in May, when Tan made state visits to Europe.

He has served more than 60 such “stints”– the longest of which was 16 days in April and May of 2007 when then President SR Nathan visited Africa. (IANS)


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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

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Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)