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Serenity and Tradition: Nirvana Memorial Garden on Singapore’s Old Choa Chu Kang Road


History of Nirvana Memorial Garden

The success of Nirvana Memorial Garden derives from their ability to forecast demand in an industry and construct an effective strategy. The management of Nirvana Asia Group saw the demand for bereavement facilities on the horizon. The government had plans to release lands for housing and development in areas where the existing cemeteries and crematoriums are located. These planned relocations will render the existing Buddhist bereavement facilities insufficient and outdated. The aforementioned relocations by 2031 are expected to affect Bukit Brown Cemetery, The Greater Bonaventure Cemetery, Bidadari Cemetery, and the Japanese Cemetery. With the help of local consultants and advisors, Nirvana Memorial Garden was the very first niche columbarium provider to engage the government, source for land in an attempt to relocate the religious bereavement facilities comprehensively. This has set a precedent for the rest of the Buddhist bereavement industry to follow suit in about 30-40 years’ time.

In 1990, Nirvana Memorial Garden was established. This land was originally part of Bukit Brown Cemetery, The Greater Bonaventure Cemetery, and the Chinese Muslim Cemetery. There were certain parts of land affected by the exhumation activities from the Choa Chu Kang and Yishun Cemetery. Nirvana Asia Group bought the land in exchange for the affected land at Chao Chu Kang Rd and paid compensation to the government.

Establishment of Nirvana Memorial Garden

Nirvana Memorial Garden is managed by Nirvana Asia Ltd. This memorial garden was officiated by the late Princess Ashorn Plianwong of Thailand in a historical event, making it the first overseas branch of the Nirvana Memorial Park. According to a Taiwanese master, this event was to fulfill a prophecy and bring fortune to the company and Singapore. The road leading up to the memorial garden is regarded as a prosperous road of eternity. The master, Mr. Su Huan, explained, “The soul of Princess Ashorn is a Bodhisattva, and through her presence, the Nirvana Columbarium in Singapore has been given the Holy Spirit, also known as Sacred Water, with the ability to cure.” This statement has had a significant impact on the Buddhist society in Singapore and has greatly improved consumers’ faith and visibility. Mr. Su Huan mentioned that burial at the road of Nirvana Memorial Garden would lead to reincarnation to the Western Buddhism Pure Land. This is a significant advantage because the only columbarium in Chua Chu Kang follows Chinese customs, while the others are at temples. The Chinese custom implies a life in the mortal realm filled with worldly desires, superstitions, and attachment to relatives, eventually decaying. It is believed that a person of Chinese custom would continue to be in reincarnation of spirits unable to return to the soul of god. By having the Nirvana Columbarium opposite the Chinese Columbarium, it provides a good chance for Chinese Buddhists who have yet to practice the above to have easier access and the opportunity to alter their funeral plans, ensuring a better afterlife for their previous generations and themselves. The above has been endorsed with the visit and compliment of Singapore’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Information, Communications and The Arts, Mr. Balaji Sadasivan, at our memorial garden on November 8, 2002.

Significance of the Old Chua Chu Kang Rd

Old Chua Chu Kang Rd has a long history which dates back to before Singapore was attacked and invaded by the Japanese during World War Two. It was during the period between the fall of Singapore and the start of the Japanese occupation that saw the Rd being used as a foundry area by the Australian 2/4th Battalion and the 44th Indian Brigade till they were all being captured after the war. The Rd will even today show evidence of metal parts when dug. At the recent exhumation exercise, workers were able to testify that they find a considerable amount of metal parts when digging near Old Chua Chu Kang Rd. During the construction of the new road, workers from the construction company find lots of old artillery shells and bombs. Realizing the danger, the site was quickly cordoned off while the area was being cleared by the SAF Explosive Ordnance Disposal Branch. According to the officers, those unexploded ordnances will probably be parts of a hidden arsenal which was to be used in the last defense for the battle of Pasir Panjang before the surrender of Singapore to the Japanese. It is fortunate that the ordnances were discovered in time to prevent any accidental explosion. This discovery highly suggests the possibility that the entire Bukit Timah area, including parts of Chua Chu Kang, was a fierce battlefield between British and Japanese troops during the final days of the Battle of Singapore.

Features and Amenities of Nirvana Columbarium

The niches at Nirvana Columbarium are built to house urns and ashes of the deceased. Various types of niches are available to meet the different needs of Buddhist practitioners from all walks of life. Nirvana offers up to a range of 10,000 niches of apartments which are affixed with glass, creating a clean and elegant look. Families also have the option to perform an enshrinement service during niche selection. The service includes insertion of urn into niche by a Nirvana monk, recitation of hymns and taking three refuges before sealing the niche with the glass pane. This is to ensure that the urns are permanently sealed and it can be seen at any time by the family. Another type of niche comes with a granite plaque which can be engraved with information of the deceased. In addition, there are temple style niches with an altar for families to perform prayers. Step niches which are economically priced are available for niche sharing among distant relatives.

The architectural design and layout of Nirvana Columbarium was conceived from the idea of blending traditional architecture with modern design. It creates a serene and tranquil environment for the visitors and families. The design is made such that every floor is a one large hall and niches are arranged in tandem, solving the common problem of other columbaria where some niches are left unattended. A large courtyard in the middle allows free flow of natural sunlight while serving as a place for families to gather and relax. Large prayer rooms are located at every floor at the courtyard providing a good place for prayers. Building a Buddhist Columbarium in accordance to fengshui principles is of utmost importance, thus the layout and architectural design are determined by internationally acclaimed fengshui master, Tan Khoon Yong.

Architectural Design and Layout

The architectural design of Nirvana Columbarium is modeled after the Ling Guang Ming Sutra Hall of the World’s Largest Porcelain Lying Buddha of Nirvana Memorial Garden. Enthroning a colossal Buddha statue, this capacious two-storey Columbarium is designated to radiate tranquility and magnificence. It is an ideal place for devotees to venerate the Buddha and seek spiritual fulfillment. The Columbarium has adopted a Tang Dynasty design with its unique roofing and paintings of the four different forms of Buddha, which symbolize the tranquility of Nirvana and the veneration. The first of its kind, Nirvana has also constructed air-conditioned enclaves named ‘Bodhi Court’ for the families of the niches. Located in an idyllic setting with a beautiful landscape garden, the ‘Bodhi Court’ is well equipped with a mini kitchen, dining table, two-way mirror, and a family ancestral altar. Families can confer discourses, contemplate, and perform rites for the departed in a modest and conducive environment at any time of the year. This propagation has received encouraging feedback from families and will be replicated in the future Columbarium phases.

Types of Columbarium Niches

Marble niches come in their regular size, being 12 inches in length, 14 inches in height, and 16 inches in depth. They are unbelievably heavy and solidly constructed. Each niche comes with an individual decorative door. In addition, the niche has side holes to allow you to insert ashes into the container. Glass or marble plaques can be ordered to customize the niche with the name and date of the deceased. This can be done through third-party service providers, and the niche owner is responsible for engaging an external service provider. Granite niches are built as 2 columbariums. Each compartment holds 2 sets of ashes. Hence, a family can pre-arrange these niches to store the ashes of the husband and wife together at 1 location. These niches come with a granite memorial plaque. Step markers can be embedded on the floor to indicate the location of the niche. Garden niches are designed primarily to cater to those who cannot afford the more expensive marble and granite niches available. Each garden niche is able to hold up to 2 sets of ashes. These niches come with a stylish granolithic plaque that is low-maintenance and less susceptible to natural weathering. Step markers can be embedded on the floor to indicate the location of the garden niche.

Facilities for Visitors and Families

In addition to the lifts and ramps, there are ample parking spaces and toilets. This will save the hassle of visitors and families having to look for parking spaces in the nearby uncertain residential area and the need to use certain facilities from neighboring shops or houses. As there are still some expansion works being carried out, the parking spaces and toilets are not fully ready. Nevertheless, there are allocated temporary parking spaces and toilets to cater to the needs of the visitors and families. They are located near the Office/Information Centre. This provides much convenience to those who are planning to visit their deceased loved ones, especially during the Qing Ming season.

The columbarium is well-equipped with lifts and ramps for easy access. It is the first of its kind in Malaysia to be fully equipped with lifts. This is really beneficial to the elderly who may find it difficult to climb the stairs. The ramps are also useful for those who have problems moving around in a wheelchair. This shows that Nirvana Memorial Garden is very thoughtful in considering the less mobile people.

Nirvana Memorial Garden definitely fulfills their task in providing the perfect posthumous services for the deceased. This not only applies to the deceased, but also to the families as well. They have achieved this through their well-planned architectural design and layout, as well as their thought put into the facilities for the visitors and families. Here, we will detail the facilities that are available for the visitors and the families of the deceased.

Services and Offerings at Nirvana Memorial Garden

Understanding that the grieving period may be a difficult time for family members, Nirvana Memorial Garden has found it to be a popular choice for family members to relocate their deceased ones to Nirvana Memorial Garden. This process however can be a very lengthy and complicated one given the available burial space here in Singapore. So as to ensure that the deceased will be able to find a place in Nirvana Memorial Garden, a guarantee for burial space with pre-purchase of burial plot is a definite way to dispel any worries of insufficient burial space.

Pre-planning to a great extent is part of Singaporean mentality and culture. Bearing in mind the saying “planning ahead is two meals worth”, pre-planning of funeral space and services would alleviate the stress and reduce the burden on the family members when the need arises. The flexibility of making payment through instalments also makes this option a feasible one.

Funeral and Burial Services

Upon the necessity of burial and funeral services, Nirvana Memorial Garden (NMG) provides a few options of various complexities to cater to the different needs and wishes of the clients. To those who wish for a traditional Buddhist funeral service, the Nirvana Columbarium Old Chua Chu Kang Road offers that exact service. With a large prayer hall, the area is able to cater to a grand Buddhist funeral service with a large amount of attendants and relatives. Needless to say, the Buddy Hall Columbarium and the newer White Sera Memorial Park offer prayer facilities as well. From simple service to a grand scale funeral, NMG has the perfect facilities with which to cater to you. The final part of the funeral service would be the procession of an entourage to the burial site. While many religions believe in using this opportunity to send off the deceased, it is best put to practice with Chinese funerals. As the Old Chua Chu Kang road is used for multiple functions, it is the place where it will be most convenient to plan a funeral. In most instances, one would hold a funeral service at the nearby prayer hall and move on to the cemetery without much ado. However, the road has seen instances where relatives of the deceased block off the road for a traditional “send-off” of firecrackers in front of the deceased’s hearse. This would not be plausible anywhere else and the Choa Chu Kang area being a place for vehicle passage at all times if a more public area is not available allows plenty of conveniences for walk-in clients.

Pre-Planning and Pre-Purchase Options

Pre-planning is the act of planning and arranging one’s own funeral prior to the need. The benefits and advice from undertakers are that otherwise, your family members would be troubled with the rites and many other matters, uncertain and could result in choosing the wrong rites which cannot be corrected. Taking it a step further, Nirvana offers potential customers the option to pre-purchase their grave site through a scheme. Customers choosing to pre-purchase their grave site are taking the time to think and select a grave site at their own pace, with contemplation upon the selections available. Once the location has been decided and payment made, this information will be stored both electronically and in paper form, with a copy given to the customer. This ensures that in the event of one passing before their family members, there will be no difficulty in determining the location of the grave site. A receipt of the transaction is also proof of ownership of said grave sites. To protect those investing in such long-term transactions, a purchase protection service against national land acquisition is available. Depending on local conditions, sometimes the allotted land for cemeteries may be acquired by the government for redevelopment purposes. In the event that land purchased by a customer is acquired by the government, Nirvana will provide a suitable replacement land for the grave site. An equivalent replacement shall include the same or better conditions, and should there be no replacement available, a refund for the grave site will be fully reimbursed. This service provides customers with assurance and security of their investments, inclusive of their family members.

Additional Services and Memorabilia

During the opening of the garden, Nirvana has launched their new set of acts to provide customers with an unforgettable memorial experience, where family members of the departed are able to give him or her a remarkable end-of-life tribute. A five-minute musical show with scenic looks and a beautiful song will be shown at the Video and Audio Corner in the Memorial Centre. “The video that takes place in a well-known and beautiful place abroad will definitely leave a good memory in the minds of the customers or families,” said one of the crew members from a well-known production company. Besides that, customers may also bring back the image of their hometown with the beautiful scenery garden by getting a family portrait that will be drawn by skilled portrait artists at the Art Corner. At the same time, customers are able to bring back their personalized photo to mark the event by having the photo taken at the photo corner. Another remarkable act is the Soul Release Act, where there will be a session on the sixth day to invite monks from renowned monasteries. During that day, customers (but not compulsory) will be able to participate in the prayer event conducted by the monks, followed by the cremation of the joss sticks and offering at the nearest peti bersurai after the prayers. This act also ensures that this will be a new memorial experience that the customers will have, as there are no other memorial companies that have such an event. This event will be an exclusive act only available in Nirvana Memorial Garden.

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