Nagore Durgha Shrine



Nagore Durgha Shrine is located at 140 Telok Ayer Street, in the historic Chinatown area. Built between 1828 and 1830 and originally known as the Shahul Hamid Durgha, the shrine is dedicated to Shahul Hamid, a south Indian holy man. The shrine was designated a national monument in 1974 and has been closed to the public since the 1990s. It will be converted and will re-open in May 2011 as the Nagore Durgah Heritage Centre showcasing Indian Muslim culture and heritage.

From the early 1820s, an Indian Muslim minority from south India known as the Chulias migrated to Singapore in large numbers. The original kampong site for the Chulias as laid out in Sir Stamford Raffles' 1823 Town Plan was at another location along the Singapore River, but over time a significant community of Indian Muslims also worked and settled around Telok Ayer Street, which came to be an important business and residential area for the Chinese.

In 1827, a piece of land at the corner of Telok Ayer Street and Boon Tat Street was granted to a man named Kaderpillai, on condition that it not be used for a wood or attap building. Lease 325 (Survey No. 7453) was issued for 99 years from 1 October 1827. One of the earliest houses of worship in Singapore, the Nagore Durgha Shrine (also known as Nagore Dargah) was built of brick and plaster and completed in 1830. It is said that the shrine was built by brothers Mohammed and Haja Mohideen as a memorial to a holy man, Shahul Hamid (also Shahul Hameed) of Nagore in southern India.

On 15 June 1893, by a court order, the Nagore Durgha properties came under new trustees, namely Mana Mohamed, Vavena Hameed, Sayna Saiboo Ghanny, Kavena Mohamed Ismail and Tana Chinny Tamby. By 1910, these trustees had either died or left Singapore, and by a court order of 21 November 1910, new trustees were appointed to look after the mosque, namely K. Mohamed Eusope, E. Tambyappa Ravooter, S. Kanisah Maricayer, V. M. Kader Bux and J. Sultan Abdul Kader. These were also the trustees for the nearby Al Abrar Mosque at Telok Ayer Street, and the Jamae Mosque at South Bridge Road.

Nagore Durgha Shrine was gazetted as a national monument on 19 November 1974, and is now in the care of Majilis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS). Reflecting the religious and cultural mix of early Singapore, Nagore Durgha Shrine is located on the same street as Thian Hock Keng Temple, Singapore’s oldest Hokkien temple, and Al Abrar Mosque, both also national monuments.

Aside from minor repairs to correct structural defects in 1991, the shrine was boarded up in the 1990s and not accessible to the public due to concerns that its structure was weak.The monument underwent major restoration works in 2007, after which it remained closed to the public. In December 2010, MUIS announced that the shrine would be converted into the Nagore Dargah Heritage Centre, featuring exhibits and artefacts of the Indian Muslim community as well as a halal eatery. The heritage centre is due to open in May 2011.

Though a small structure, the ornate architecture of Nagore Durgha Shrine makes an imposing stand at the corner of Telok Ayer Street and Boon Tat Street. Similar to Jamae Mosque, the architectural features are a unique blend of East and West. Fluted Corinthian pillars front the entrance, which features a classical street-level façade with an elaborate Islamic balustrade pierced with mihrab-shaped niches. At the corners of the building are 14-level square minarets topped with onion domes and spires. Inside the building sits a square enclosure that consists of an outer hall, a main hall and two kramats (Malay for "shrines"). The interior galleries are lined with heavy Doric columns. The side of the building facing Boon Tat Street features large French windows topped with glass fanlights. Externally, the eaves of the building are supported by a European-influenced system of cast-iron brackets.

Vernon Cornelius-Takahama and Joanna Tan

Beamish, J. (1985). A history of Singapore architecture: The making of a city (p. 58). Singapore: G. Brash.
(Call no.: SING 722.4095957 BEA)

Classic in design, rich in history. (1982, January 10). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved on August 20, 2010, from NewspaperSG.

Doggett, M. (1957). Characters of light: A guide to the buildings of Singapore (p. 41). Singapore: Donald Moore.
(Call no.: RSING 722.4095957 DOG)

Edwards, N. & Keys, P. (1996). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places (pp. 405, 437). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: SING 915.957 EDW)

Hooi, C. (1982). National monuments of Singapore (pp. 20-21). Singapore: National Museum.
(Call no.: SING 722.4095957 NAT)

Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers (pp. 80-81). Singapore: Landmark Books and Preservation of Monuments Board.
(Call no.: SING 726.095957 LEE)

Liu, G. (1996). In granite and chunam: The national monuments of Singapore (pp. 88-91). Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: SING 725.94095957 LIU)

New life for monument. (2006, December 4). The Straits Times, p. H2. Retrieved on August 20, 2010, from NewspaperSG.
Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then & now (p.186). Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: SING 959.57 TYE)

Further readings
Mialaret, J. P. (1986). Passing through Singapore 1900-1930 [Escales a Singapour 1900-1930] (p. 51). Singapore: G. Brash.
(Call no.: RSING 769.4995957 MIA)

Nagore Dargah. (2010). Retrieved November 4, 2010, from Preservation of Monuments Board website:

Singapore historical postcards from the National Archives collection (p. 58). (1986). Singapore: Times Eds.
(Call no.: SING 769.4995957 SIN)

Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1991). Nagore Durgha Shrine preservation guidelines. Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board.
(Call no.: RSING 363.69095957 NAG)

Yen Feng. (2010, December 17). Indian-Muslim shrine now a heritage centre. The Straits Times. Retrieved on January 6, 2011 from Factiva database.

The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Historic buildings--Singapore
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Monuments
National monuments
Arts>>Architecture>>Religious buildings
Arts>>Architecture>>Architectural structure

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