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Plurality of Shrines

Plurality is perhaps the common feature among the multitude of vernacular shrines in Singapore. We explore three aspects of this feature below, as a first step toward glimpsing just how complex, interconnected, and diverse these sites of practice can be. 


Plurality of Belief

Vernacular shrines represent the diverse religious beliefs within Singaporean society in their ubiquity, variety of forms and cross-cultural influences. 


Plurality of Function

The wide array of ceremonies and events conducted at vernacular shrines demonstrate the complex ways of religious practice that take place across the island.


Worshippers and visitors to the many vernacular shrines across the island hail from all walks of life in Singapore, with some even coming from abroad to pay their respects.

Plurality of  Community


Plurality of Belief

Singapore plays host to a wide variety of peoples, cultures, and religions. This diversity is reflected in the beliefs that facilitate the continuation and creation of vernacular shrines. 

You can find shrines with varying and diverse physical features that suggest cross-cultural influences across the landscape of this island. Offerings, for instance, may vary widely even across shrines in similar locations, reflecting in part the diverse composition of Singaporean society. These facets of vernacular shrines point toward the plurality of beliefs among communities of Singapore that shape and influence these sites of practice.

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Plurality of Function

Vernacular shrines see many religious and cultural practices utilized at their premises, depending upon the community of worship that uses those sites. This can make for an intriguing variation of ceremonies, offerings, and statues at these shrines distinct from established places of worship like temples. The varied functions of these sites, in turn, give insight into the varying religious interpretations and meanings of individuals and communities in Singapore and the role that vernacular shrines play in serving as community nodes.

What can be glimpsed through these vernacular shrines is the complexity and nuance of everyday worship within Singaporean society. For example, shrines in places such as Bukit Merah or Kent Ridge, these sites of practice have close links to nearby businesses and services. The plurality of functions one can witness at these sites indicates their significance within the socio-religious landscape of this island.

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Plurality, Belief
Plurality, Pract

Plurality of Community

The communities that create, sustain, and support the vernacular shrines in Singapore are the foundation for the rich diversity in beliefs and practices that one can observe at these sites. Their varying backgrounds help to influence the eclectic variation present (with some even hailing from overseas): from offerings made to the statues placed for worship. Their contributions (be they monetary or in-kind) and presence at these practice sites indicate the inclusivity and interaction of cultures, beliefs, and people within Singaporean society.

The informal nature of vernacular shrines means they also play crucial roles in social cohesion in a locale, as communities gather around these sites to socialize. This is especially true of the shrines found at or near markets, coffee shops, and bus interchanges, where individuals passing by may utilize them to make quick prayers and interact with other regular worshippers. The plurality of communities in Singapore is thus manifested in the vernacular shrines on the island.

Learn more in the relevant Theme(s) below!

Plurality, Community
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