Singapore is a beautiful city-state where people from many different backgrounds live together peacefully. This shows how peacefully people of different faiths can celebrate cultural, religious, culinary, and sports events. It has Malay, Chinese, Tamil, and English as its official languages. Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Eurasian are four important racial groups.
The people of Singapore love peace, and it shows in how they treat people of all religions, countries, and backgrounds with respect. So, you should plan a trip to Singapore so you can take part in its festivals and see how the country’s many different cultures work together to create a beautiful show of art and crafts.
What does Vesak look like?
Different people celebrate the holiday in different ways. Often, the celebrations start with a good “spring clean” and decorating the house. Buddhists go to their temples in the morning and give food, candles, and flowers to the monks as gifts. People sing and pray, and there is incense, music, and different colors. There might be parades that are fun to watch.
Some places will have a rite called “Bathing the Buddha” in which water will be poured over a statue of Buddha. Electric lights and exciting light shows are hung from homes and trees, along with special paper and wood lanterns that are sometimes made at home. When caged birds are set free, it’s a sign of letting go of your troubles. There may be dragon dances in China.
Vesak Day 2023: Buddhist temples to visit in Singapore
1. Foo Hai Ch’an Monastery
This stunning temple is painted in muted colours and complete with classic Chinese architecture. Step in and be greeted with a statue of the bodhisattva (a deity who has attained the highest level of enlightenment) Guanyin. Also known as the Goddess of Mercy, she is the feminine representation of Buddha.
2. Sri Lankaramaya Buddhist Temple
Built in 1952, the Sri Lankaramaya Buddhist Temple is one of the most significant temples in Singapore. Here, find a massive reclining Buddha statue and a Bodhi Tree. The latter is a large sacred fig tree symbolising enlightenment—according to the Singapore Sinhala Buddhist Association, it is said that spiritual teacher Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment under this tree in northern India.
3. Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple
Located along Waterloo Street, the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple is dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin (also known as Avalokitesvara). It is believed that praying to this all-seeing and all-hearing deity will bring worshippers inner peach and good luck.
Temple is decked in a colourful facade featuring Chinese temple architectural styles such as its pagoda rooftop and elaborate ornate carvings of dragons and phoenixes.
4. Qi Tian Gong Temple
Also known as the Monkey God temple, the Qi Tian Gong Temple is dedicated to the Taoist deity, Monkey God. Founded in 1920, this temple was one of the first temples in Singapore worshipping the deity. Today, you will find over 10 intricate statues of the Monkey God within the temple, with some dating back over a century.
5. Burmese Buddhist Temple
Burmese Buddhist Temple, which is also known as Maha Sasani Ramsi, is one of the most popular Buddhist temples in Singapore and it’s easy to see why. Located near Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, the temple is the sole Burmese Buddhist Temple in Singapore and was built in 1875. Upon entering the temple grounds, devotees will be greeted by two lion-like figures as well as a huge, pure white marble statue of Buddha which is extremely impressive to behold and very Instagrammable.
6. Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple
Located along Race Course Road, Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple is well known because it houses a 300-ton statue of Buddha as well as an ebony and mother-of-pearl replica of Buddha’s footprint and a piece of bark from the original Bodhi tree under which Buddha sat. The temple’s design also reflects an interesting mix of Chinese, Thai and Indian influences which works hand in hand to create one of the most gorgeous temples in Singapore.
7. Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery
One of the largest Buddhist temples in Singapore, the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery was founded in 1912 and became the first monastery in Singapore to hold the three-step-one-bow ceremony. This ceremony includes chanting and the bathing of the baby prince Siddhartha.
8. Thian Hock Keng
Thian Hock Keng was first constructed in 1840. Since then, it has continued to preserve its rich culture and traditions such as the performances by Nanyin, Getai and traditional Hokkien puppet shows.
The temple firmly believes in staying relevant while not compromising its roots and regularly holds free guided tours to introduce the public to the heritage of the building as well as the customs and faith. Although the temple’s primary deity is Mazu, a Chinese sea goddess, a shrine dedicated to the Buddhist bodhisattva of mercy, Guanyin, is located at the back of the temple as well.
9. Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Located right in the heart of Chinatown, the iconic Buddha Tooth Relic temple is hard to miss. Built in 2007, the temple has an intricately designed interior and exhibits that are meant to relay historical stories of Buddhist culture and religion.
What makes this temple special is the Buddhist culture museum located on the third floor. The museum is home to many sacred artefacts of Buddha such as bone and tongue relics which many believers and non-believers enjoy touring and discovering.
10. Wat Ananda Metyaram Thai Buddhist Temple
Wat Ananda Metyaram Thai Buddhist Temple is the oldest Theravada Buddhist tradition temple in Singapore and was opened in 1925.
The building has gone through numerous renovations and upgrades since but the most significant one happened in 2014 when a new and more modern temple building was officially opened.
The new building features a Dhamma hall, mediation hall, cultural centre and more.
11. Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery
The Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery is located in Toa Payoh and is one of Singapore’s oldest Buddhist temples. What makes it so special is the traditional architecture which features a rare example of a cong lin monastery in the Asian region. It is believed that a cong lin monastery layout helps to cultivate monastic discipline. The monastery was also modelled after the Xi Chan Monastery in Fuzhou, China which adds to its splendour.
12. Thean Hou Buddhist Temple, Kuala Lumpur
This Wesak day 2023, expect to see devotees fill up every corner and inch of Thean Hou Temple. This temple has a six-tiered statue of the sea goddess Mazu and Buddhists and visitors usually offer candles and flowers.
It is believed that the fragrance and beauty of these flowers represent impermanence, and you will notice the flowers eventually become scentless and withered over time. This serves as a reminder to all devotees to cherish and appreciate the present moment, and not take anything for granted.
Learn All About Buddhism This Wesak Day Malaysia 2023
During Wesak Day Malaysia 2023, just like every year, the temples and monks will teach attendees about different religions and cultures as an important part of everyone’s education. You can learn to understand the different ways of living, which can help bring people together, regardless of race and religion. Wesak 2023 is a perfect cultural festival to teach children of all ages about this. Plus, it’s best to learn from young ones to have a brighter view of the future.
At temples, there will be plenty of Wesak Day activities going around in the courtyard of the temples. You will see a table or two with the Wesak Illustrated Lotus Cards. On these cards, the lotus flower represents purity in Buddhism and comes in different forms, shapes, and sizes. You can purchase them in the form of donations, and place these cards in your wallets, cars, and rooms at home.
For the kids, there are great teaching and learning materials in the form of books and interactive colouring pages. These books are perfect for kids to start learning about the Buddhism way of life.
In some temples, there are classes you and your kids can attend – not only on Wesak 2023 but any other time too. This is also the perfect way to introduce Buddhism to children and anyone interested. There will be theory and practical lessons where kids and adults can read, discuss and do activities together.
During Wesak day, these lessons are taken to the next level. Classes are usually equipped with presentations, lesson modules, history and background of Buddhism as well as assessment materials and activities.
The Wesak 2023 ceremony starts at dawn when devotees gather at their respective Buddhist temples to meditate and sing hymns. At the same time, monks will chant the melodic sutras.
After that, there will be a candle procession activity and symbolic offerings of joss sticks, candles, and flowers on Buddha’s statue. Also, food, drinks, and all forms of donations for the less fortunate will be handed out during the ceremony.
How is Wesak/Vesak Day celebrated?
Vesak/Wesak Day is a time to pay tribute to Buddha’s life and reflect on his teachings. Buddhist culture has its own traditions for the day, but many Buddhists will go to their local temple and others might stay there for the whole night as well and meditate.
People will carry out good deeds such as visiting the elderly and sharing food with others in need. Others often prepare for the holiday by decorating their homes with lanterns, taking part in processions and wearing special white clothes. Temples are also decorated with flowers, and offerings of food and flowers are given to the monks. Family and friends also share lovely, colourful cards with each other.
A special ritual takes place known as ‘Bathing the Buddha’ in which people pour fragrant water over a statue of Buddha to symbolize inner purification and act as a reminder to clear their minds of negative thoughts.