Stone deities at Sri Mariamman Temple

Photo by Gildardo

Bustling Chinatown is home to the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, the Sri Mariamman Temple.

The temple dates back to 1827, when it was known as Mariamman Kovil or Kling Chapel. Established by Indian pioneer Naraina Pillai, the original wood-and-attap structure was built by immigrants from the Nagapatnam and Cuddalore districts of South India.

It is dedicated to the goddess Mariamman, known for her power to cure illnesses and diseases.

Abuzz with activity

Now a national monument, much of the present structure is believed to have been built in 1862-1863 by Indian craftsmen.

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 authorised to solemnise Hindu marriages.

It has been restored numerous times, most recently in 2010. This S$4-million restoration project saw a team of about 20 artists brought in from India, and included the repainting of all the stone sculptures.

An ornate landmark

When you visit, pay close attention to the ornate and elaborate detailing on the temple’s interior and exterior. The majestic gopuram (grand tower entrance) is a landmark for generations of Hindu worshippers and Singaporeans alike. Its five tiers are covered with sculptures of deities and mythological figures.