The oldest shrine in Singapore – Sri Mariamman Temple is one of the most prominent places of worship for Tamil Hindus in the country. It was built to honour Goddess Mariamman – the deity of disease and protection. Originally erected by Naraina Pillai – an Indian trader from Penang – in 1827, the temple was modified to its present structure in 1862, although it has undergone several renovations since. Apart from being a place of worship, the temple has also acted as an asylum for new immigrants that belong to South Indian Tamil Hindu community.
During the colonial era, the temple was a centre of Hindu communal activities and served as the registry of Hindu marriages, as then being the only authorized temple in the country to formalize Hindu unions. It was declared a National Monument in 1973. Managed by the Hindu Endowments Board, the temple has now come a long way and hosts a variety of cultural, educational and social activities, aside from its religious services. In fact, Sri Mariamman Temple now stands as a proud representation of rich Hindu culture in Singapore.
Sri Mariamman Temple Highlights
Sri Mariamman Temple is a fine illustration of Dravidian-style architecture. It especially stands out for its gopuram (monumental tower) that is seen at the entrance. Flanked by the images of Lord Muruga and Lord Krishna on both sides, the gopuram consists of six tiers ornamented with the colourful sculptures of Hindu deities that are brilliantly detailed using plaster work.
At the base of the gopuram is a doorway consisting of a pair of timber gates embellished with small golden bells. Devotees are required to ring the bell as they enter the temple. From the doorway, a covered hall leads to the main prayer hall that enshrines the deity of Mariamman, along with the images of Lord Rama and Lord Muruga.
There are also opulent columns as well as ceiling graced with vivid paintings. A series of agnostic shrines devoted to deities such as Ganesh, Mathurai Veeran, Durga and Draupadi bounds the main prayer hall. Of these, perhaps the most noteworthy is the shrine of Draupadi together with the Pandavas and Lord Krishna. Each shrine is housed within a structure traditionally referred to as Vimana, which in turn resembles a pavilion. A flagpole, where flags are raised to mark the commencement of prime festivals as well as rituals, can also be seen in the temple precincts.