Hindus celebrate Ganesha Chaturthi in Singapore

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Singapore, Sep16: Singapore's Hindu devotees celebrated Lord Ganesha's birthday by crowning the idol of the deity with a gold crown worth 150,000 Singapore dollars at a 150-year-old temple, while hundreds of curious locals visited three trees, the barks of which look like Hanuman, Ganesha and a Chinese deity.

The 3.5 kg crown is claimed to be the largest of its kind and was installed on the Lord Ganesha idol, also the largest in South East Asia, in the first ever crowning ceremony held in Singapore yesterday, according to media reports today.

It was funded by devotees and visitors to the 150-year-old Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple in Ceylon Road on the east coast of Singapore. Lord Ganesha has a large following of Indian and Chinese devotees, according to a report by the Channel News Asia today.

Meanwhile, three African Mahogany trees on the west coast of Singapore have been drawing crowds as their barks look like Hanuman, Ganesha and Guan Yin, a Chinese deity. One has two Hanumans side-by-side and another has a Ganesha-like head complete with a bark looking like the trunk.The Chinese believe in Monkey God. The bark of a third nearby tree shows the outline of the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin, according to a report in the Sunday Times today.

Peanuts and bananas are being offered for prayers and distributed to visitors at the trees, while a number of volunteers manning the crowds have urged them not to offer money during the daily prayers since the discovery of the trees last week.

The growing number of devotees are seeking blessings and good luck charms, especially for numbers for the three-times a week raffles draw held by the state-run Singapore Pools.

Forty-five year old Billy Singh, drove from his tailor shop in the fashionable and busy tourist area of Orchard Road, to pay homage to one of the trees last week.

''I believe that this tree will bring good luck. Property prices around here should rise,'' he said, referring to the housing estate in Jurong, Singapore's industrial hub.

Experts say the images are due to ''callusing'', when a tree grows new bark over areas that have been injured. The Chinese deity-like tree has suffered a number of car accidents, purportedly not being fatal due to its divine powers.

Associate professor Hugh Tan, from the department of biological sciences at the National University of Singapore, says the patterns formed by callusing are random and depend on the damage caused by the accidents.

''This is coincidence. With some imagination, I guess you can see the face of a monkey,'' he said, adding that the "monkey" on the smoothe bark may disappear with time as the new tissue layers form under it and push this layer out. Singaporeans are known for worshipping statues and have idolised at least three more trees, believing in urban legends.

According to the Singapore Paranormal Investigators (SPI), a tree shrine has been established since 1969 in the main Toa Payoh Housing estate. It has four Buddha statues where regular praying sessions are held.

It is believed that an engineer was crushed under his own vehicle when he tried to uproot the tree during the clearing of the area for developing the Toa Payoh housing estate in the centre of the city state in the early 1960s.

Another tree in the Ang Mo Kio housing estate has crowds staring at its upper branches for four-digit numbers to buy lotteries. It is called 4-D tree, according to the independent SPI. A third tree, near a former cemetery, is bedecked with chimes which are believed to ward of evil spirits and look after the soul of the dead, says SPI.


UNI

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