Nagore Dargah

Singapore Infopedia

by Cornelius, Vernon, Tan, Joanna Hwang Soo


Nagore Dargah is an Indian Muslim shrine located at 140 Telok Ayer Street, in the historic Chinatown area. It was built between 1828 and 1830 by the Chulias from south India in memory of Shahul Hamid, a holy man from Nagore, south India.1 The shrine was gazetted as a national monument in 1974 and was later converted into the Nagore Dargah Indian Muslim Heritage Centre, which opened in 2011, showcasing Indian Muslim culture and heritage.2

From the early 1820s, an Indian Muslim minority from the Coromandel Coast in south India known as the Chulias migrated to Singapore in large numbers. The original kampong (village) site for the Chulias as laid out in Sir Stamford Raffles's 1822 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 was also an important business and residential area for the Chinese.3

The Chulias built a shrine between 1828 and 1830, on a piece of land at the corner of Telok Ayer Street and Boon Tat Street as a memorial to a holy man, Shahul Hamid of Nagore. Originally called Shahul Hamid Dargah, it was later renamed Nagore Dargah.4 The shrine is a replica of the original shrine in India and contains no bodily relic of the holy man to whom the shrine is dedicated.5 It is said that the shrine was built by two brothers, Mohammed and Haja Mohideen, who shipped in limestones and other building materials to build the shrine.6

The shrine was built on a piece of land that was originally granted to a man named Kaderpillai, on the 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 1827.7 On 15 June 1893, the Nagore Dargah properties came under new trustees, namely Mana Mohamed, Vavena Hameed, Sayna Saiboo Ghanny, Kavena Mohamed Ismail and Tana Chinny Tamby, by a court order.8 By 1910, these trustees had either died or left Singapore and, by another court order issued on 21 November 1910, new trustees  — K. Mohamed Eusope, Thambyappa Rarooter, S. Kanisah Maricayar, V. M. Kader Bux and J. Sultan Abdul Kader — were appointed to look after the mosque. They were also the trustees for the nearby Al-Abrar Mosque at Telok Ayer Street, and the Jamae Mosque at South Bridge Road.9

Nagore Dargah was gazetted as a national monument on 19 November 1974, and is now under the care of Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS).10 Reflecting the religious and cultural mix of early Singapore, Nagore Dargah is located on the same street as Thian Hock Keng Temple, Singapore’s oldest Hokkien temple, and Al-Abrar Mosque, both also national monuments.

The shrine was boarded up in the 1990s and closed to the public due to concerns that its structure was weak.11 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 a heritage centre featuring exhibits and artefacts of the Indian Muslim community as well as a halal eatery.12

On 29 May 2011, the Nagore Dargah Indian Muslim Heritage Centre was officially opened by then President S R Nathan.13 However, the centre had to close again in 2013 to undergo upgrading and restoration works to fix its wall paint that had disintegrated because of dampness. The centre reopened its doors to visitors in November 2014 and launched a new gallery that comprised a multimedia exhibit and storyboard featuring pioneers of the Indian Muslim community in Singapore in January 2015.14

Though a small structure, the ornate architecture of Nagore Dargah makes an imposing stand at the corner of Telok Ayer Street and Boon Tat Street. Similar to Jamae Mosque, its 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.15


Vernon Cornelius-Takahama & Joanna Tan

1. Christopher Hooi, National Monuments of Singapore (Singapore: National Museum, 1982), 21 (Call no. RSING 722.4095957 NAT); Lee Geok Boi, The Religious Monuments of Singapore: Faiths of Our Forefathers (Singapore: Landmark Books and Preservation of Monuments Board, 2002), 80. (Call no. RSING 726.095957 LEE)
2. Jalelah Abu Baker, “Indian Muslim Heritage Centre Opens,” Straits Times, 30 May 2011, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Gretchen Liu, In Granite and Chunam: The National Monuments of Singapore (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1996), 89 (Call no. RSING 725.94095957 LIU); Urban Redevelopment Authority for Preservation of Monuments Board, Nagore Durgha Shrine Preservation Guidelines, vol. I (Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, 1991), 10. (Call no. RSING 363.69095957 NAG)
4. Hooi, National Monuments of Singapore, 21; Urban Redevelopment Authority for Preservation of Monuments Board, Nagore Durgha Shrine Preservation Guidelines, 5. Edwin Lee, Historic Buildings of Singapore (Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, 1990), 69. (Call no. RSING 720.95957 LEE)
6. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 264 (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); “Walk about Chinatown,” Today, 12 January 2001, 34. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Hooi, National Monuments of Singapore, 21; Lee, Religious Monuments of Singapore, 80.
8. Hooi, National Monuments of Singapore, 21.
9. Urban Redevelopment Authority for Preservation of Monuments Board, Jamae Mosque Preservation Guidelines, vol. 1 Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, 1991), 4–5. (Call no.: RSING 363.69095957 JAM)
10. The Preservation of Monuments Order 1974, Sp. S 339/1974, Government Gazette. Subsidiary Legislation Supplement, 29 November 1974, 898 (Call no. RCLOS 348.5957 SGGSLS); Lee, Religious Monuments of Singapore, 80.
11. “New Life for Monument,” Straits Times, 4 December 2006, H2. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Yen Feng, “Indian-Muslim Shrine Now a Heritage Centre,” Straits Times, 17 December 2010, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Jalelah Abu Baker, “Indian Muslim Heritage Centre Opens,” Straits Times, 30 May 2011, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Melody Zaccheus, “Indian-Muslim Centre to Reopen Next Month,” Straits Times, 23 October 2014, 6; Audrey Tan, “New Gallery Added to Indian Muslim Heritage Centre,” Straits Times, 7 January 2014, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
15. Lee, Religious Monuments of Singapore, 80–81; Liu, In Granite and Chunam, 89–91.

Further resources
Former Nagore Dargah,” National Heritage Board, accessed 7 May 2016.

Jane Beamish, A History of Singapore Architecture: The Making of a City (Singapore: G. Brash, 1985), 58. (Call no. RSING 722.4095957 BEA)

Jean-Pierre Mialaret, Passing Through Singapore 1900–1930 [Escales a Singapour 1900–1930] (Singapore: G. Brash, 1986), 51. (Call no. RSING 769.4995957 MIA)

Majorie Doggett, Characters of Light: A Guide to the Buildings of Singapore (Singapore: Donald Moore, 1957), 41. (Call no. RSING 722.4095957 DOG)

National Archives (Singapore), Singapore Historical Postcards from the National Archives Collection (Singapore: Times Editions, 1986), 58. (Call no. RSING 769.4995957 SIN)

Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 405, 437. (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])

Peter Keys, “Classic in Design, rich in History,” Straits Times, 10 January 1982, 10. (From NewspaperSG)

Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 186. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])

The information in this article is valid as of 2016 and correct as far as we can 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.

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