Ash management: Understanding columbarium niches in Singapore

Ash management: Understanding columbarium niches in Singapore

While people are increasingly open to the idea of ash scattering after cremation, most Singaporeans still prefer to safekeep their loved ones’ ashes in columbarium niches. Today, we explore the different aspects of choosing a columbarium niche, so you can make a more informed decision.

Columbarium niches available in Singapore

There are two types of columbaria here in Singapore: government-managed columbaria and private columbaria. At present, the two government-managed columbaria available for booking are the Choa Chu Kang Columbarium and the Mandai Columbarium. In contrast, there are some 60 private columbaria located islandwide. These include the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery in Bishan, and the All Saints Memorial Chapel in the Serangoon area.

The process of choosing and arranging a columbarium niche in Singapore

When choosing a columbarium niche, budget is one of the first few factors that people think about. Government-managed columbaria not only feature lush greenery, but are also more affordable than those that are privately owned. A standard niche at a government-managed venue will cost you $500, while a family niche comes at $900. All these niches are allocated by sequence. If you wish to select a specific niche slot, you’ll have to top up an additional $250. Bear in mind, however, that these prices do not cover the marble plaque.

An example of a niche marble plaque. This marble plaque belongs to the late Mr Wee Yoh Tai, a dear friend of our founder Roland Tay.

In contrast, niches at private columbaria are typically around $2,000 and can go up to $200,000, depending on the niche size. Other than its size, the level of the niche also affects its pricing. In many columbaria, you’ll notice that each columbarium pillar consists of eight to nine levels. Interestingly, the levels signify different meanings according to traditional Chinese belief. And these are the most commonly accepted meanings:

  • 1st and 2nd levels: Known as the “filial” levels because descendants must kneel to pay their respects to their ancestors.
  • 3rd and 4th levels: Here are the “wealth” levels, as descendants can assume a sitting position while praying.
  • 6th and 7th levels: The “guardian” levels. Deceased placed here are thought to be looking out for their families.
  • 8th and 9th levels: Called the “respect” levels, they symbolise high morality.

With 60-odd private columbaria in Singapore, there’s a higher chance of getting the niche you want at these facilities compared to government-managed ones. Still, the most sought-after level is undoubtedly the 5th level, as it’s conveniently positioned at the eye level.

Arrangement for any columbarium niche should ideally be made by the deceased’s next-of-kin with the relevant documents, including the digital death certificate. If the applicant is not the next-of-kin, a letter of authorisation is required. All the above may be a lot to handle and process, but an experienced funeral director will be able to guide you along the way. At Direct, we work with a trusted partner to assist families with matters concerning niche arrangement.

Visiting and maintaining a columbarium niche

Little needs to be done on your part when it comes to maintaining your loved one’s columbarium niche. Most columbaria will have keepers to help maintain the niches and the surrounding environment, though some venues require a maintenance fee. There are also private columbaria that offer prayer and worship services, giving you peace of mind that your loved one is attended to on important occasions.

Now that you have a better understanding of columbarium niches, we’ll be sharing what you need to know about ancestral tables next. Do keep an eye out for the article!