Lasers, iPods, for a Singapore funeral of a lifetime

Mon May 17, 2010 5:15am EDT
 
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By Edgar Su

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Death need not be a grim affair, especially for the living, and at a new columbarium in Singapore, the deceased can depart, rock concert style.

Unlike most traditional Buddhist funeral ceremonies that follow cremation, there is no incense and no monks offering prayers at the Nirvana Memorial Garden columbarium, where the urns holding the remains of the dead are stored.

Instead, curtains draw automatically to reveal the deceased's urn which is placed atop a pedestal, machine-generated smoke fills the prayer hall and a booming recorded voice, accompanied by chants, speaks words of comfort and talks about death.

The columbarium boasts a $2 million sound and light system. Its resident Buddha statue pulsate gently with LED lights and, as a final touch, a ray of bright white light shines on the urn of the deceased symbolizing the ascent to heaven.

"This is just 60 percent of what we can offer," said Jessie Ong, who works for Nirvana Memorial, the company that runs the columbarium. "We are still fine tuning the laser lights."

Most columbariums are dark, eerie places, with floors littered with incense ash and urns piled high to the ceiling in tiny pigeonholes, each adorned with a picture of the deceased.

But in Nirvana Memorial, luxury and space are aplenty.

"This is not a place for people to come only once a year to visit their parents or relatives, we want to create an environment to encourage them to come as often as possible," Jeff Kong, director of Nirvana Memorial Singapore, told Reuters.   Continued...

 
<p>Sales agents talk to a prospective customer about the niches in the Royal Suite at Nirvana Memorial Garden in Singapore May 15, 2010. REUTERS/Edgar Su</p>