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Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple

Drupadi, Hindu temple in Singapore, Sri Mariamman Temple, Chinatown Singapore, holiday in Singapore, Beautiful Hindu temple
Sri Mariamman Temple. Image: panoramio.com
If your vacation to Singapore, you will definitely visit Orchard Road for shopping or Marina Bay Sand to witness the splendor of the latest hotel and casino complex in Southeast Asia. For Hindus, perhaps you are curious about the existence of a Hindu temple in Singapore. 

Besides in India, Nepal or Indonesia, then you also will find a Hindu temple in this city state. I suggest you visit Chinatown. 

You do not have to wonder, why have to go to Chinatown to find a Hindu temple in Singapore?


Drupadi, Hindu temple in Singapore, Sri Mariamman Temple, Chinatown Singapore, holiday in Singapore, Beautiful Hindu temple
Sri Mariamman Temple. Image: marctey.com
Sri Mariamman Temple - Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple - is an enduring icon on South Bridge Road which is a part of Chinatown. Sri Mariamman Temple represents not just the age-old beliefs and customs of the Hindus, but also stands as a memorial to the philanthropic deeds of early Tamil pioneers. The temple was known as Mariamman Kovil or Kling Street Temple, and built by immigrants from the Nagapatnam and Cuddalore districts of South India.  It was founded by Indian entrepreneur Narraina Pillal in 1827. 

Besides worship, the temple was an important place for community activities during the colonial era. It was even the Registry of Marriages for Hindus – at the time, only the temple was authorized to solemnize Hindu marriages. It's one of Singapore's oldest buildings, founded just eight years after the British East India established their first trading settlement.
 
Drupadi, Hindu temple in Singapore, Sri Mariamman Temple, Chinatown Singapore, holiday in Singapore, Beautiful Hindu temple
Interior, Sri Mariamman Temple. Image: globaltravelmate.com
Sri Mariamman Temple was not only a religious house for the Hindu community.  It was also a refuge and shelter for newly arrived Indian immigrants until they found accommodation and work. The temple also functioned as a social space for Indian immigrants to meet and mingle. Traditional Hindu wedding ceremonies were, and continue to be, held in the temple. This place of worship has always been important in the daily lives of Singapore's Hindus.

The entrance tower is covered with figurative sculptures of gods and goddesses and mythological beasts. Within the temple compound are shrines capped with colourful domes called vimanam. Sculptures of cows, sacred to Hindus, can also be found on the boundary walls around the compound. Near the temple’s ablution area is a flagpole, on which a flag is raised some days before an important festival or ritual to announce the preparations for it. Each level is decorated with brightly colored statues.
 
Drupadi, Hindu temple in Singapore, Sri Mariamman Temple, Chinatown Singapore, holiday in Singapore, Beautiful Hindu temple
Sri Mariamman Hindu temple. Image: colourbox.com
The statues include Hindu gods seated in relaxed poses next to Indian soldiers, called sepoys, dressed in British army uniforms. The tower is 6 levels tall that it is visible from afar so devotees can even say their prayers without stepping inside the temple. Other deities worshipped in Sri Mariamman Temple include Ganesha, the Elephant God, as well as Aravan, depicted in the form of a severed head, who is believed to be a sacrificial victim in one of the great battles in Mahabharata.

It has been restored numerous times, most recently in 2010, after a year-long project that restored the temple to its original splendor. It remains one of the most popular Hindu temples in Singapore. Every year, Sri Mariamman Temple celebrates Theemithi, during which Draupadi is honoured. Since the temple’s early years, the festival has been one of its mainstays. Theemithi takes place in either October or November, and commemorates Draupadi’s victory.