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Understanding Columbarium Essentials – Niches, Ancestral Pedestals, and Prayer Ceremonies

So, you have decided on the columbarium you prefer; now, we will explore the mechanics or details you may need to select during the purchase.

Columbarium Suite

There is no difference between the suites for the public columbarium. However, for some private columbaria, there are differences. The price differs between the suites within the columbarium facility. Newer and more exclusive columbarium suites will tend to command a higher price. The more columbarium niches within a suite, the more attractive the price will be. Nirvana columbarium, one of the largest private columbaria in Singapore, has suites for Buddhists and Taoists, but they have columbarium suites suitable for free thinkers, Christians, and Catholics as well. Every room will have its unique design theme to match the individual’s religious preference.

Columbarium Niche

The columbarium niche is where the urn is installed. The material of the niche in public columbaria is usually marble or granite. For Nirvana, the front is either a metal door or a glass door. For the glass door niches, the urn can be clearly displayed, with miniature interior decorations to beautify the niche space.

Within a private columbarium suite, there are also different levels of niche. The ones at eye level will usually command a relatively higher price. At the same time, the ones on the uppermost top and lowest bottom will have a relatively lower price. However, you are allocated a specific niche location for a public columbarium. If you want to make changes to the niche location (depends on its availability), an additional $250 fee will need to be paid.

One may not realize that different niche level serves another purpose for the departed and their family members. Each of them has its unique significance.

For example, at Nirvana columbarium, there are 8 to 9 niche levels. The most popular is still the ‘eye-level’ niche (level 5) because family members need not squat, bend their bodies, or look up when doing their worship.

The levels 1 to 2 niches are known as the “Filial” levels. This is because children and grandchildren must kneel and worship their ancestors sincerely. Levels 3 to 4 are known as the “wealth levels” suitable for the elderly and those who prefer to sit down and worship their ancestors. Levels 6 and 7 are called the “Guarding” levels. It is for ancestors to look after and protect their descendants. And level 8 and 9 are known as the “Respect” levels. This is to symbolise the status of high virtue and morality.

As long the columbarium sits on a good Fengshui land, its suites and niches have naturally good Fengshui. However, it is good to choose a columbarium niche that has the best possible Fengshui for the departed’s family members.

It is because a good Fengshui columbarium niche can bring lasting good fortune to the generations. Hence, you can engage a credible Fengshui master to help you select columbarium niches or speak to a columbarium representative who has specialised knowledge of Fengshui.

Niche in Private Columbarium
Niche in Private Columbarium

Ancestral Pedestal or Tablets (神主牌| 祖先牌| 牌位)

In Chinese culture, we worship our deceased ancestors for the protection and blessing of the family. On the 49th day after death, it is said in Buddhist or Taoist practice that the newly departed has been reborn in the next life, while at the same time ascending into the ancestors’ rankings.

It was during this time that the senior priest conducted a solemn prayer ritual (also known as The Rising Ceremony 升牌仪式), and the ancestral pedestal was consecrated (开光).

The worshipping of ancestors is a symbol of filial piety. This custom has been practised for centuries in traditional Chinese houses since the Shang Dynasty.

You can then install the ancestral tablets on an altar in your home to worship the ancestors conveniently. However, not everyone is free or well-versed in worshipping rituals in today’s busy society. Hence, some private columbaria will have their pedestal halls as an alternative option for customers who do not have the time to worship at home.

Moreover, senior priests and monks will also conduct regular prayer sessions to bless the ancestral pedestals.

At Nirvana, the material to make the ancestral pedestal is usually crystal. It has a simple design of the Mandela lotus flower with flowing water. It is to symbolise boundless good fortune for many generations of the ancestors.

Placement of Ancestral Tablet
Placement of Ancestral Tablet

Prayer Ceremonies

Prayer ceremonies are part and parcel of a full-scale private columbarium facility. For public columbaria and private ones that do not conduct their prayer ceremonies, the customers may need to engage their priest to perform the rituals.

An An-Ling prayer ritual is usually conducted on the 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th, 35th, 42nd, and 49th day after death. The purpose of the prayer rituals is to ensure that the departed soul’s journey to rebirth is smooth and protected. In Buddhism, it is said that the departed soul will take 49 days after death to be reincarnated into the next life or enter enlightenment (the state of Nirvana).

At Nirvana memorial garden columbarium, the newly departed remains were kept in the An-Ling prayer temple, where the senior Buddhist monks conduct daily prayers. The cost of the prayer ceremonies is already included in the columbarium package.

Moreover, massive prayer ceremonies are also conducted during important seasons like Chinese New Year, Zhong Yuan Festival, Qing Ming Festival, Vesak Day, and Winter Solstice. The main objective of these prayer ceremonies is to bless the family members of the beloved departed.

Choosing the right columbarium is more than just deciding on the location. You must also decide on the columbarium suite, niche location, ancestral pedestals and see if the columbarium conducts regular prayer ceremonies for your dearly departed. By having these information requirements in mind, you can then make a better decision in choosing the best columbarium for your departed loved ones.

Columbarium An Ling 49 days
Columbarium An Ling 49 days
Nirvana Singapore (Nirvana Memorial Garden) always aims to provide best funeral and columbarium services

About Nirvana Singapore 富贵山庄

Nirvana Singapore is one of the largest private columbaria in Singapore. The columbarium has a serene landscape and is best known for its modern facilities, dedicated services, and good Fengshui location.