Constructed in 1855, the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple at Serangoon Road, Little India, is one of Singapore’s oldest Hindu temples. Known for being the starting point for kavadi carriers during the Thaipusam festival, the temple was gazetted as a national monument on 10 November 1978. Srinivasa Perumal or Lord Vishnu, the preserver and protector of the universe, is the presiding deity of this temple managed by the Hindu Endowments Board.1
The land that the temple sits on was purchased from the East India Company in 1851, and the temple itself was constructed in 1855. A large pond and mandapam (main hall) were the main features of the original temple, known as Sri Narasimha Perumal Temple.2 The pond, which devotees used for cleansing was filled up in the 1920s for hygiene reasons.3
In 1907, the temple came under the administration of the Mohammedan Hindu Endowments Board (MHEB). In 1952, the MHEB decided to rebuild and reinstate the temple. However, the redevelopment process commenced only in the early 1960s, and was completed in 1966, with much of it financed by P. Govindasamy Pillay, a prominent Indian merchant and philanthropist, who was a devotee of the temple.4
Craftsmen from South India were brought in to undertake the more intricate ornamentation.5 Pillai is also credited with building the wedding hall that later became synonymous with the temple. It was officially opened on 19 June 1965 by the first president of Singapore, Yusof Ishak. During this period, the temple was renamed Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple, upon the advice of the elders to change the main deity from Narasimha Perumal to Srinivasa Perumal.6
In 1977, construction began on the elaborate gopuram or entrance tower – the most prominent feature of the temple. Also financed by Pillay, the tower was completed in early 1979. The temple has since undergone further renovations and additions in 1987, 1992 and 2005. During the different phases of redevelopment, improvements were made to the temple’s facilities to meet the growing needs of devotees.7
The main feature of the temple is its five-tiered gopuram, which is adorned with the various avatars of Vishnu and other Hindu deities vividly, as well as floral and abstract motifs. The towering gopuram is visible from a great distance, thereby allowing devotees to offer their prayers from afar.8
Elaborate carvings and colourful mandalas symbolising the universe and enlightenment decorate the interiors of the mandapam or prayer hall. A statue of the main deity, Srinivasa Perumal, is enshrined within the main sanctum. The entrance to the sanctum is flanked by two Dwarapalakas, or door deities, with various avatars of Vishnu lining the top of the walls leading to the sanctum’s entrance. Shrines of other Hindu deities can also be found in the temple such as those of Vishnu’s consorts, Lakshmi and Andal. Others deities honoured in the temple include Hanuman the monkey god, and Ganesha the elephant-headed god.9
The temple offers prayer services in the form of ubayams and archanai (special prayers). Daily prayer rituals known as pooja are also held in the mornings and evenings. Other services provided by the temple include free Thevaram (devotional songs) and Hinduism classes, free homeopathy services and bursary education schemes (Sivadas-HEB Education Fund) for disadvantaged Hindu children.10
Renuka M. & Mervin Ang
1. Gretchen Liu, In Granite and Chunam: The National Monuments of Singapore (Singapore: Landmark Books and Preservation of Monuments Board, 1996), 122–23 (Call no. RSING 725.94095957 LIU); Lee Geok Boi,. (2002). The Religious Monuments of Singapore: Faiths of Our Forefathers (Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board: Landmark Books, 2002), 68. (Call no. RSING 726.095957 LEE)
2. “Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple,” National Heritage Board, 24 December 2016; “Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple,” Hindu Endowments Board, accessed 24 December 2016.
3. Liu, Granite and Chunam, 122–23.
4. Hindu Endowments Board, “Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple.”
5. Liu, Granite and Chunam, 122–23.
6. Hindu Endowments Board, “Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple.”
7. Hindu Endowments Board, “Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple.”
8. National Heritage Board, “Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple.”
9. National Heritage Board, “Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple.”
10. “About Temple: Book Services: Other Services,” Hindu Endowments Board, accessed 24 December 2016.
Corkkavacalà®à¯à®°à¯à®à¯à®à®µà®¾à®à®²à¯ [Beyond divine doors] (Singapore: Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple). (Call no. Tamil RSING 294.535095957 SOR)
G. Uma Devi, Resonance: Songs of Our Forefathers(Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, 2009), 54–63. (Call no. RSING 725.94095957 RES)
Wan Meng Hao and Jacqueline Lau, Heritage Places of Singapore (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2009), 196–97. (Call no. RSING 959.57 WAN-[HIS])
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