Singapore is one of the most religiously diverse countries on the planet. Considering the country’s history, however, along with its diverse population and multi-cultural society, this is hardly surprising.
Singapore’s Constitution grants freedom of religion, with just a few limitations. It also seeks to prevent actions that could cause divisions and problems on the grounds of religion.
Whilst there are some tendencies for people of different ethnicities to follow certain religions, this certainly isn’t universal. The major religions in Singapore include Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, and Taoism, although you will find various branches and schools of each, along with other religions entirely. It is not uncommon for people to blend religions and follow aspects of several.
There are numerous religious buildings around Singapore, catering to a wide variety of faiths, and major religious festivals are often celebrated by large numbers of people, regardless of their common beliefs.
The most prominent religion in Singapore is Buddhism, with the Mahayana branch being the most followed. There are also followers of the Theravada school, as well as other forms. Most Singaporean Buddhists have Chinese heritage.
The concept of Fengshui plays a large role for many Singaporean Buddhists, with the major Buddhist practices centred around morality, wisdom, and concentration. There are strong links with Taoism and Confucianism. A significant number of Singaporean Buddhists are vegetarian.
If you visit a Buddhist temple, remember to remove your shoes at the entrance. Make sure that you are also dressed respectfully, with your shoulders and knees covered.
Kong Meng San Phor Kark See is the biggest Mahayana temple in Singapore. It dates back to the early 20th century. Vesak Day, commemorating Buddha’s birth and enlightenment, is one of the most significant Buddhist celebrations in Singapore.
Most Singaporean’s who practice Islam are Malay, although there is also a sizeable Indian Muslim community too, along with people of other races. The predominant branch of Islam in Singapore is Sunni.
Muslims follow the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, cannot eat pork, and must only eat Halal foods. Most Muslims fast during the period of Ramadan. A major part of the Islamic faith is the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, known as Haj.
The Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka is the oldest mosque in Singapore. As with all mosques, visitors must remove their shoes before entering. Some mosques provide scarves and robes for visitors to cover with before entering, whilst others do not allow non-Muslims inside the main areas.
Major Islamic celebrations in Singapore include Hari Raja Haji and Hari Raya Puasa.
Many Singaporean Hindus are from the Indian community. It does not, however, follow that most Indians are Hindu – there are various religions practiced by Singaporean Indians.
Hindus worship one god, although the god appears in many different forms. Hindu temples are central to the faith, with temples devoted to different incarnations of god. In Singapore, the most commonly worshipped incarnations include Mariamman, Krishna, Ganesha, Rama, and Hanuman.
The oldest Hindu temple in Singapore is Sri Mariamman Temple. Followers of the Hindu faith wash their feet and hands before entering a place of worship. Although not essential, some Hindus follow a vegetarian diet. Deepavali, also known as the Festival of Light, is one of the major Hindu festivals.
Christianity in Singapore is practiced mainly by Chinese and Indian people today. Various different branches of Christianity are followed, and you will notice churches of various denominations.
Following the teachings of Jesus Christ, major Christian festivals include Christmas and Easter.
The Armenian Church is the oldest Christian church in Singapore.
The majority of Singaporean Taoists are Chinese. The faith follows the teachings of Lao Tzu, an ancient philosopher. Ancestral worship, respect for nature and mankind, compassion, life-after-death, and divine adoration are main precepts. The idea of harmony through Yin Yang comes from Taoism.
Thian Hock Keng is one of the most important Taoist temples in Singapore. Major festivals include the Lunar New Year, the Hungry Ghost Festival, and Qingming.