Tuesday, 26 August 2014

A fairy Cemetery - Bidadari

Bidadari Memorial Garden



Bidadari meaning fairy according to Wikipedia, coming from the Sanskrit word widyadari. These fairies are reported to be kind, an angel, a nymph. In another record its also stated that the word comes from the Malay for fairy, so I'm not sure which is correct but either way "fairy" it is! However the "fairy" in question is not a nymph, angel, sprite or any "out of the world" mythical creature, but in this case its come from the description given to Sultan Abu Bakars wife, who was reported to be a great beauty and whose land the original Bidadari cemetery was built on in the early 1900s.

The land, where once a couple of cemeteries stood on, had been a large plantation (cemeteries were often built on old plantations as they were set away from the population and covered large areas) A large house was built between 1855-61 and was later bought by The Sultan of Johor, Abu Bakar. The house was later demolished in 1915 after Abu Bakar sold the land.

1903 - 45 acres of land were sold with plans to build a Christian cemetery.
1905 - A further 33 acres bought for a Muslim cemetery as well.
30 Dec 1907 - cemetery was consecrated.
1908 - Christian cemetery was opened
1910 - Muslim cemetery opened
1925 - More landed was purchased and a Hindu cemetery was in place. According to records I've read the first Hindu to buried here was Koona Pillay.

Taken from an information board, the view of the old cemetery and the town park.
Burials ceased here in 1972 with at the time appox 147,000 graves in situ, it became a popular park. The local Gurkha's even used it for running exercises. Between 2001-4 the graves were exhumed and it was opened as a temporary town park as it was then known it would later be redeveloped. I'm beginning to feel I mention this in nearly all of my posts, redevelopment, redevelopment and yes redevelopment ... sigh, but land is scarce in Singapore I know.... In 2004 the Memorial Garden was built to remember the cemetery and a number of prominent peoples headstones were placed in the garden, with one of the sets of gates placed at the entrance. In 2012 work finally started on new homes and buildings and in August 2013 plans were announced for 3 new towns in Singapore with one being Bidadari new town. The Memorial Garden will soon ceased to exist, although plans have been made to relocate it into a new town park, covering 10 hectares which will include also a lake called Alkaff Lake.


You enter the Garden through the old gates and it is divided into 3 small sections, commemorating the 3 religions of the old cemeteries. The headstones have been taken from prominent Singaporeans and people of history. It includes 21 headstones.

Memorial plaque commemorating the British Merchant seamen. My husbands uncle served in Singapore as one.
I took a 30 minute bus ride up to visit here, before it disappears completely and it also gave me the chance to visit another new area. I passed by void decks painted along Pipit Rd which I think I'll take a trip back there to view more and take in the local shops and hawker centres - interesting.

A pagoda in the modern but not also closed Mount Vernon Columbarium
I alighted and soon found Mount Vernon Drive. The area is surrounded by military camps and as I walked up the drive I saw the sign for Gurkha's - I wasn't aware they were in Singapore. Sitting next to the Memorial Garden is Mount Vernon Columbarium, architecturally interesting in its own right with a tall pagoda in its centre. This modern place too has recently been closed and will disappear under Bidadari New Town.

The garden itself is small and I was probably only there 20/30 minutes, much smaller than I had anticipated and I wouldn't recommend people travelling far to make just one solo visit. More if you're passing, or have other things to visit nearby, take a short break to have a rest in the peaceful surroundings ..... While they're still there.

Memorial to the first Hindu to be buried at the cemetery, Koona Pillay.
The Christian Garden
Albert Bidwell, architect of Singapore
Alexander Gordon, Municipal architect of Singapore and President of the Institute of Architects of Malaya 1930-31
The Muslim Garden