When the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) celebrated its 50th anniversary last Sunday, it honoured more than 80 individuals for their contributions to the Hindu community.
Among them was 102-year-old Bala Subramanion who had served as a member of HEB and the Hindu Advisory Board (HAB), which was established in 1985 to advise the Government and HEB on Hinduism and its customs.
Mr Bala, who was the first Asian postmaster-general of independent Singapore from 1967 to 1970, said that he participated in the refurbishment of the Sri Sivan and Sri Srinivasa Perumal temples by raising funds during his early years of service.
"The community has since come a long way," he said. "I am proud of what we have done over the years for those in need."
The HEB was set up in 1969, a year after the enactment of the Hindu Endowments Act.
It currently manages four temples - Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple at Serangoon Road, Sri Mariamman Temple at South Bridge Road, Sri Sivan Temple in Geylang East and Sri Vairavamada Kaliamman Temple at Toa Payoh.
The board also plays a significant role in organising major Hindu festivals such as Thaipusam.
Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam presented tokens of appreciation to former and current members of both boards during the anniversary dinner held at the Marina Mandarin hotel. He commended the members for their "lifetime commitment to the betterment of the community".
"It is an intense type of volunteering, frequent and often in the forefront," he said, adding that what is seen today is an accumulation of all their contributions.
Mr Tharman also commended both boards for making Thaipusam a fulfilling experience for devotees. The positive engagement of the boards with the management of both the Perumal and Tank Road temples, the kavadi carriers and their families, supporters and the police, has resulted in the progressive relaxation of restrictions by the authorities, he said.
Mr Tharman also noted the key roles the boards play in fostering multi-religious harmony in Singapore.
"Our Hindu community leaders have played an active role in promoting inter-faith harmony," he said.
"Our Hindu leadership, both nationally and in our various local constituencies, walk the talk in nurturing strong networks with their other faith counterparts." He also highlighted the need to put even more effort into "cultivating peace and harmony and building social trust".
HEB has been serving the information needs of the community through its publication Hindu News. It organises health festivals and the Gift from the Heart programme where low-income families are given monthly dry-food rations. It also runs a halfway house HEB-Ashram to provide rehabilitative care to substance abusers.
The board provides education assistance through the HEB-Sivadas Education Fund and has started Project Bhakti to instil in children sound morals and values.
It also redeveloped Little India Arcade, which has a good mix of Indian restaurants and shops, as a cultural landmark. Notable individuals who have served both boards over the years include former Presidents Devan Nair and S R Nathan.
Mr Nathan was the chairman of HAB and HEB from 1982 to 1988.
Thanking those who have contributed to the board over the past 50 years, HEB chairman R. Jayachandran said that all of them are "responsible for bringing up HEB to this exalted level of providing quality service to the Hindu Community".
Mr K. Kannappan, who had served on both boards from 1986 to 2006, was one of the 83 who were honoured for their contributions.
"The board has done much over the years to serve the Hindu community. In recent times, it has leveraged on technology to connect more with the community," he said.
Events like Thaipusam and Theemithi are now streamed live on social media by the HEB.