At the corner of Brickland Road and the Kranji Expressway, to the west of Choa Chu Kang town, is a small, nondescript lane called Jalan Lam San.
Lam San is Hokkien for Southern Hill. The place name goes back to the 1940s, and the road is a remnant of a rural past that will soon make way for Tengah town. The road is currently used by heavy vehicles like dump trucks to enter and leave Tengah town’s construction sites over which thousands of new flats will rise.
But more on the curiosities of the place name and the road for another time. This post is about its roadside shrine.
Like the Datuk Gong shrine of Joo Chiat Place Car Park, the shrine is but a few years old. To be exact, it appeared between April 2018 and September 2019, according to Google Maps.
As the shrine is near the entrance into Tengah town’s construction sites, my guess is that it materialised as work started on Tengah town and Jalan Lam San started to be frequented by heavy vehicles - and their drivers and workers. The religious among them set up an altar by the road to offer prayers for safety during their work shifts, and over time, more and more deities were added to the altar.
This is the shrine today, next to the pavement and road.
One must cross a makeshift bridge over the open drain to get to the shrine.
It has the look of a structure haphazardly cobbled together by cheap materials salvaged from construction and rubbish sites - the divine amidst the dumps.
Like many ground-up roadside shrines, there is an eclectic mix of deities from Chinese and Indian religions. Visitors are free to add deities to the shrine, and everyone contributes to the general upkeep of all deities.
There’s Da Er Ye Bo, the popular ghost dispatchers in charge of escorting the soul of the deceased to the 10 Courts of Hell for judgement.
A tiny Earth Deity figurine.
Quite a few Hindu deities in the mix - I see the family of Shiva, Parvati, Murugan, and Ganesha; Parvati is flanked by Saraswati (with the musical instrument called the veena) and Lakshmi (with the lotuses).
Not a bad combination below - Guan Di (Emperor Guan, the deified Romance of the Three Kingdoms hero Guan Yu), who stands for righteousness, brotherhood, and martial qualities; and Ganesha, the remover of obstacles and the Lord of letters and learning.
A tablet dedicated to the Earth Deity, tucked away at the side.
The shrine should last as long as there is construction work in the northern part of Tengah town, as long as the area around Jalan Lam San is not redeveloped, and as long as the authorities either do not notice its existence, or turn a blind eye. Even then, I would be surprised if it lasts another 10 years. For such ground-up roadside shrines resting in public spaces are usually ephemeral.
But even as shrines and altars are transient, devotion is eternal.