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Timings : 5:00 AM - 11:30 AM, 5:00 PM - 8:45 PM

Time Required : 1 - 2 hours

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Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, Singapore Overview

The oldest temple in Singapore, Sri Mariamman Temple is located paradoxically in the centre of Chinatown. Dating back to 1827, the exquisite temple is dedicated to Goddess Mariamman, a Hindu deity known for curing illness, disease and epidemics.

The ornate and elaborate detailing of the gopuram (tower) above the entrance is a sight to behold, making it popular among the architecture lovers, apart from the tourists and Hindu immigrants in Singapore. The boundary walls of the temple are graced by sacred cow sculptures while the six-tiers of the gopuram has intricate plasterwork images of Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver) and Shiva (the destroyer).

Sri Mahamariamman Temple of Singapore has been accorded the status of a National Monument by the Singaporean authorities. Since its inception in 1862, the grand temple served 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. The Thimithi, or fire walking ceremony, held a week before the festival of Diwali in October-November is one of the grandest occasions celebrated at Sri Maha Mariamman Temple.

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Architecture of Sri Mariamman Temple

The magnificent Mariamman 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 of plaster and bricks. The fine 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.

Sri Mariamman Temple Singapore
The temple gopuram is adorned with intricate sculptures of various Hindu deities (Source)
The iconic gopuram, one of the chief attractions of Sri Mariamman 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.

Sri Mariamman Temple Interior
The temple interior (Source)

Historical Significance

Sri Maha 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 are 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. Sri Mariamman Temple has undergone several redevelopment phases since then, with the authorities taking great care to preserve its structural integrity and heritage value.

How to Reach Sri Maha Mariamman Temple

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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