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Each urn has unique number

Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery, one of Singapore's oldest Buddhist temples, also houses a crematorium and columbarium.

There are over 200,000 niches at the columbarium at Bright Hill Road.

A monastery spokesman said that an original receipt must be produced before a family member can retrieve an urn.

Each urn has a unique number, and a name and photo on it. The monastery's records are both in hard copy and electronic forms.

In 2008, The Straits Times reported that there are at least 60 columbaria here - three Government-run ones in Mandai, Yishun and Choa Chu Kang, and 57 private ones, including those in churches and temples.

CHECKS

Over at Nirvana Memorial Garden, a five-year-old columbarium known for its modern design, records are also kept electronically and in hard copy.

Most names engraved on the niches are in Chinese characters but there are records in both English and Chinese.

There are checks at every step, from purchasing the niche to the final step of placing the urn at the niche, said Ms Jessica Feng, general manager of operations and training.

At Nirvana, most cases are "check-ins," which means they handle urns from the recently deceased, transfers from another columbarium, the recently cremated and exhumed.

"It is an elaborate process, and serves to ensure the relatives of the deceased that their loved ones are in a good place," said Ms Feng, who added that "checking out" an urn would require a similarly rigorous process. Nirvana has not handled any check-outs yet.