Being the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, Sri Mariamman Temple located in Chinatown has been the central point of Hindu tradition and culture. Like many religious sites in the early years, the temple was not only constructed for worship but also as a social centre for the community. This temple in particular also served as a refuge for new immigrants as they attempted to establish themselves in this new land. It was also the temple for solemnising Hindu marriages in Singapore. Built by prominent leader and government clerk Mr. Naraina Pillai from Penang, who arrived in Singapore with Stamford Raffles in May 1819, the Sri Mariamman Temple soon garnered popularity among with early immigrants from the Nagapatnam and Cuddalore districts of South India.
Although dedicated to the goddess Sri Mariamman, who is known for curing disease, several shrines for other Hindu gods are also present. The main prayer room consists of the central shrine of Mariamman bordered by secondary deities Rama and Murugan. Surrounding the entire prayer room encompasses a series of free-standing shrines from Durga, Ganesh, Muthularajah, Aravan and Draupadi. The Draupadi shrine also plays a very important role in the temple particularly during the Thimithi festival which usually takes place sometime around around late October to early November where the fire walking section is being conducted.
Architecturally following the South Indian Dravidian style, possibly the most outstanding feature of the temple is its impressive entrance tower, or gopuram. Richly consisting of six tiers of sculptures of Hindu deities, other prominent figures and ornamental decorations, the tower tapers up towards to a moulded ornamental ridge. The clever use of plaster allows for fine detailing and vivid colours enhances the vast grandeur entrance into the temple. Interestingly enough, the scale of each tier and its sculptures is slightly smaller than that of the tier immediately below it, creating an illusion of height. The site today is not only an functioning religious place of worship for believers but continually operates social, cultural and educational activities for visitors and tourists. Learn more about Hinduism and admire the South Indian Dravidian style of architecture.