Sri Mariamman Temple


Sri Mariamman Temple at 244 South Bridge Road is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore. Established by Indian pioneer Naraina Pillai (or Narayana Pillay) in 1827, the original wood-and-attap temple was replaced with a brick structure in 1843. The temple was gazetted as a national monument on 28 June 1973.

Pillai, who had migrated to Singapore in 1819, suffered a great business loss in 1822 when a fire destroyed his shop at Cross Street. With the assistance of Sir Stamford Raffles, he revived his business, becoming one of the first traders to move into Commercial Square (now Raffles Place). In gratitude, he built the temple dedicated to the goddess Mariamman, curer of diseases, in 1827. It was marked out as “Kling Temple” in Lieutenant Philip Jackson's first town plan of Singapore. In 1843, this wood-and-attap temple was replaced with a brick structure built using Indian convict labour. It served as an early registry of marriages for Hindus. The temple has since undergone several rounds of renovations and additions. Much of the present building is believed to date from 1862-63, constructed by Indian and Chinese craftsmen.

Pagoda Street and Temple Street which parallel the temple gained their names from this ornate building. The elaborately-decorated gopuram, or entrance tower, is a landmark in the area. Its six tiers feature three-dimensional sculptures of deities in relaxed poses and Sepoy soldiers wearing khaki uniforms inspired by the military tradition of the British Raj.

The top of the boundary wall that surrounds the compound is lined with sculptures of cows (considered sacred by Hindus). The entrance is a pair of timber doors flanked by two square pillars. Within the grounds are several domes, called vimanam, which mark the location of shrines. The mandapam, or central hall, that leads up to the main shrine is an elongated passageway with painted ceilings.

The main festival celebrated at the temple is the fire-walking festival Theemithi, which falls in October or November annually.

The temple was re-consecrated in April 2010 following the completion of a S$4-million restoration project. A team of about 20 artists were brought in from India for the project, which included repainting all the stone deities.

Bonny Tan & Valerie Chew

Lee, E. (1990). Historic buildings of Singapore (p. 65). Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board.
(Call no.: RSING 720.95957 LEE)

Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers (pp. 72-77). Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE)

Liu, G. (1996). In granite and chunam: The national monuments of Singapore (pp. 114-121). Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: RSING 725.94095957 LIU)

Sri Mariamman Temple. (2010). Retrieved October 25, 2010, from Preservation of Monuments Board website:

Tay, S. C. (2010, April 10). Brighter and better. The Straits Times. Retrieved October 29, 2010, from Factiva database.

Yen, F. (2010, April 6). Sri Mariamman Temple unveils its new look. The Straits Times. Retrieved October 29, 2010, from Factiva database.

Further readings
Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places (p. 406). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW)

Hall-Jones, J. (1979). An early surveyor in Singapore: John Turnbull Thomson in Singapore, 1841-1853 (p. 47). Singapore: National Museum.
(Call no.: RSING 526.90924 THO.H)

Kwek, L. J., et al. (2009). Resonance: Songs of our forefathers (pp. 48-53). Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board.
(Call no.: RSING 725.94095957 RES)

Pastel portraits: Singapore's architectural heritage. (1984). Singapore: Singapore Coordinating Committee.
(Call no.: RSING 722.4095957 PAS)

Sanmugam, E. [1996]. Sri Mariamman Temple: A glorious monument. [Singapore: Hindu Endowments Board].
(Call no.: RSING 294.535095957 SAN)

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.

Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Religious Buildings
Temples, Hindu--Singapore
Arts>>Architecture>>Religious buildings
Cinkappūr Śrī Māriyamman Kōvil
Philosophy, psychology and religion>>Religion>>Hinduism
Historic buildings--Singapore
Religious buildings

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