Sri Mariamman Temple

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Ideal Time: 1 - 2 hours

Timings:

Morning: 5:30 AM - 12:00 PM,
Evening: 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

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Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore Overview

Sri Mariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, dedicated to Goddess Mariamman, a Hindu deity known for curing illness, disease and epidemics. Built in 1827, this historic temple, located in Chinatown, has served as a landmark since due to the iconic sculptures of gods, goddesses and mythical creatures. It is greatly revered by a majority of the Hindu immigrants of Singapore, most of whom originate from Tamil Nadu in South India. The temple reflects the Dravidian style of architecture prevalent in South India. The gopuram, a typical feature of this architectural style, is widely regarded as an architectural delight, drawing tourists and pilgrims from near and far to admire the fine craftsmanship of this tower.

Due to its religious significance, marvellous architecture and vibrant exteriors, this magnificent temple had been accorded the status of a National Monument by the Singaporean authorities. It has been a vital part of the Hindu community in Singapore, serving as a Registry of Marriages for Hindu at a time when the temple was the only authority that could recognise Hindu marriages, and refuge for new immigrants to Singapore during colonial times. Along with its religious function, this iconic temple plays a crucial role in promoting various social, cultural and educational activities. The Thimiti, or fire walking ceremony, held a week before the festival of Diwali in October-November is one of the grandest occasions celebrated at this temple.

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The Sri Mariamman Temple was the idea of Mr Nariana Pillai, a clerk with the East India Company. He had the privilege of accompanying the founder of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles, to the mainland on his second visit in 1819. A site near the Stamford Canal was alotted for the construction of the temple in 1821, as the original location given by the East India Company would cause trouble in conducting rituals that required a constant source of freshwater. Due to changes in town planning, this area was not available, and the temple was finally built at its current location on the South Bridge road in 1827. Initially made of wood and attap, a small deity of Sri Mariamman was installed by Mr Pillai, the same deity that sits in the temple’s main sanctum today.

The landmark gopuram, a tall tower designed with intricate carvings and sculptures, was rebuilt in the 1930s to reflect the intricate details and sculptures that is seen today. In 1962, the new temple structure was developed, with elaborate sculptural work as was the architectural pattern followed by the temples in India. The temple has undergone several redevelopment phases since then, with the authorities taking great care to preserve its structural integrity and heritage value.

This magnificent temple is built in the Dravidian style of architecture prevalent across historic temples of South India. The area of the temple comprises of covered halls, shrines to various deities, service areas, and a beautiful open courtyard. Initially, a structure made of wood and attap, the current structure is made up plaster and bricks. The finely sculpted sculptures that adorn the area of the temple, especially those along the gopuram, are also made of plaster. The main prayer area is made up of intricately carved columns, covered with ceilings decked with beautiful frescoes.

The iconic gopuram, one of the chief attractions of the temple, is a six-tiered structure, with each tier richly embellished in sculptures of gods, goddesses, important facets of history, and ornamental carvings. The scale of each tier and its sculptures diminishes with each progressive structure, creating the illusion of height to this impressive building, and painted in bright and energetic patterns, making the entire complex a visual delight. While the main entrance with the gopuram is a major focus of tourists to this sacred place, there are side entrances found on the perimeter of the temple compounds, connecting to the nearby Pagoda Street and Temple Street, mainly used as service entrances. The walls of the compound are also decorated in a similar manner, adorned with various sculptures and ornamental mouldings.

Apart from the main prayer and pooja services at the Sri Mariamman Temple, the temple also organises free homoeopathy services and Thevaram classes. Project Bhakti, a Hinduism class for school children taught by youth volunteers, is organised here and in other temples around Singapore to help educate the young minds on Hindu culture. The Sivadas-HEB education fund, facilitated through this temple, offers financial assistance to Hindu students living in Singapore.

The Sri Mariamman Temple is located on the South Bridge Road in Chinatown. There is a bus stop situated right opposite the temple, accessed by the 61, 166, and 197. Those choosing to use the MRT can take the MRT to Chinatown Station, exiting through the A Exit, 250 metres from the temple. Alternatively, one could also hire a private taxi to arrive at this temple.

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