Singapore – Hindu leader VR Nathan dies

via published on February 1, 2009

FORMER Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) chairman V.R. Nathan died yesterday, at age 78.

He had been unwell for more than a month with complications from a
lung infection and died at Singapore General Hospital in the afternoon,
said his son-in-law Ramadas Naidu, 53.

President S R Nathan, who was an old friend, joined leaders
of the Hindu community and other religious groups here in paying
tribute yesterday to Mr Nathan’s contributions to the HEB and to
fostering inter-religious harmony.

In a condolence letter to the family, President Nathan said
he was ‘deeply saddened’ to learn of Mr Nathan’s passing and noted his
many accomplishments.

The late Mr Nathan retired from a career in banking in the 1980s and devoted his retirement years to volunteer work.

This included being an active member of the HEB for more than
20 years. He chaired it from 1991 to 2005 and stayed on as an adviser
after that.

President Nathan noted that Mr Nathan, through his hands-on
supervision, ‘put in place a system of budgetary monitoring of the
earnings of each of the board’s four Hindu temples – two of which are
national monuments’.

These are the Sri Mariamman Temple in South Bridge Road and the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road.

‘He built up the finances of the board and it was able to acquire assets and a financial reserve,’ added the President.

He noted that together with community leaders Sat Pal Khattar,
Chandra Das and Gopinath Pillai, the late Mr Nathan spearheaded the
redevelopment of the board’s properties in the Serangoon Road, Campbell
Road and Hastings Road quadrangle into today’s Little India.

During the late Mr Nathan’s tenure, the Sri Sivan Temple in
Geylang was also built and the other three temples rebuilt and

‘The present state of the board’s temples is the legacy he leaves behind,’ said President Nathan.

Noted Mr Chandra Das, a former MP: ‘The HEB benefited greatly
from his leadership. I have worked very closely with him over the years
and benefited greatly from his advice.’

Lawyer and board member Mohan Das Naidu, 58, said the late Mr
Nathan was ‘primarily responsible for uplifting the image of the board’
and that his death was a big loss.

Son-in-law Ramadas Naidu described him as ‘a very forthright
person who devoted his life to the community. The community came

President Nathan said in his condolence letter that Mr
Nathan, an active advocate of inter-racial harmony, helped revitalise
the Inter-Religious Organisation.

He also worked closely with Muslim welfare group Jamiyah, the
Singapore Buddhist Lodge and church bodies to promote multi-religious
charitable causes and community projects, and served on the
Presidential Council for Religious Harmony from 1992 to 2004.

Singapore Buddhist Lodge president Lee Bock Guan – who was in
talks with Mr Nathan recently on ways to help needy dialysis patients
during the downturn – described him as ‘a very, very kind man’.

Inter-Religious Organisation president Rustom Ghadiali, who
is president of the Parsi Zoroastrian Association of Singapore, said
representatives of 10 religions here plan to hold inter-faith prayers
for Mr Nathan in the coming days.

As President Nathan noted in his letter: ‘There were many
accomplishments of Mr Nathan. But his signal contribution has been to
the HEB and the Hindu community and later on inter-racial affairs.

‘Under his hands-on leadership, orderly conduct of the
Thaipusam festival and the fire-walking event was also achieved. He
also took the lead to involve the HEB in projects like the Ashram
‘halfway house’ and the Deepavali light-up, which is now an annual

He added: ‘He was a simple man, whose needs were simple as
was his manners. He was strong and devoted in his faith. By example, he
inspired many to volunteer their services to various temple and welfare
causes. It is indeed difficult to sum up what Indian Singaporeans and
Hindus in particular owe him.’

Mr Nathan leaves behind his wife, four daughters and nine grandchildren.

His body will be cremated at the Mandai Crematorium on Sunday afternoon.

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