About Sri Thendayuthapani Temple
Chettiars’ Temple Society, the management body of Sri Thendayuthapani Temple, also administers the Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple located at Keong Saik Road. The main deity of this temple is Lord Sri Thendayuthapani. At the entrance of the main sanctum, there are smaller shrines for Lord Jambu Vinayagar and Idumban. In 1878,two separate sanctums were built for Lord Sundareswarar and Meenakshi Amman. The temple has a 75-feet tall Rajagopuram which was consecrated in 1983. A marriage hall with a dining facility was also added during the redevelopment. Consecration ceremonies were also held in 1996 and 2009.
Origins of the Temple
The Chettiar community is deeply rooted in the Hindu tradition, especially in the Saiva Siddhantha. Members of the community are very devoted to Sri Thendayuthapani, also known as Lord Muruga. However, it was not until 35 years after their arrival in Singapore that they constructed a proper temple in honour of Sri Thendayuthapani. Prior to the construction of their temple, members of the Chettiar community visited and offered their prayers at the Sivan Temple (now relocated to Geylang East Avenue 2) and at Sri Mariamman Temple located at South Bridge Road. As such, they formed strong associations with these temples.
Prior to 1859, a Vel (spear), a representation of Lord Muruga, was installed under a tree at Tank Road where the Chettiars offered their prayers. The Vel was installed below a Peepal (arasa maram) tree at the bank of a tank (pond). Fresh water from the hill where the Central Park is now located, emerged as a waterfall and filled the tank. The location was ideal for the establishment of a temple. The Chettiars took their bath there before offering their prayers to the Vel. The railway line nearby also provided an excellent form of transport to and from Malaya where they had also established their businesses. The tree had to be uprooted when the government acquired the land for the redevelopment of Tank Road. The site where the Vel was located now forms part of the slip road that leads to River Valley Road and Clemenceau Avenue.
CM Turnbull, in her book entitled ‘A History of Singapore 1819-1975’ records that the Nattukkottai Chettiars built the Subramaniam Temple (a popular name given to the temple by non-Chettiars) in Tank Road in 1859. The slab stones found at the temple indicate that the temple was consecrated on 4 April 1859. The land where the present temple currently stands was purchased from the estate of Mr Oxley, the first Surgeon General of Singapore. The temple in its original form was a simple structure. At the entrance to the temple, two raised platforms, like those found in Chettiar households in Tamil Nadu, were erected. It had an alangara mandapam and an ardha mandapam.
The alangara mandapam was used to house the decorated deities on special occasions while the ardha mandapam was the centre hall leading to the main sanctum. The main sanctum was dedicated to Lord Muruga in the form of Sri Thendayuthapani. The Jambu Vinayagar and Iduambar sanctums were constructed on the sides of the main sanctum. A dining hall with a courtyard, called the Kaarthikai Kattu, was used for serving food on Karthikai and special occasions such as Thaipusam. The Kaarthikai Kattu, erected in 1859 was demolished about 122 years later in 1981 to make way for the Chettiars Wedding Hall.
Every year, six important festivals are celebrated with great pomp and grandeur, which are Thaipusam, Laksharchanai for Sri Meenakshi Amman and Sri Durgai Amman, Navarathri, Skantha Shashti and Thiru Karthigai. On Guru Poojai and Karthigai (an auspicious day falling on every month), Annadhanam (free blessed meals) are served to the devotees after prayers.
Temple in Literary Works
The earliest recorded works about the temple are by Sadasivam Pandithar, a Jaffna Tamil. His poems that were published in ‘Singai Nagaranthati’ and ‘Chitrakavikal’ in 1887 give some description about the temple. His works also became the forerunner to Tamil literature in Malaya and Singapore. Notable among other literary works on Lord Thendayuthapani are by RMR Ramanathan and RKM Meyappa Chettiar. Kavignar Kannadhasan, a Chettiar and a distinguished poet has also composed songs in praise of the Lord Thendayuthapani when he visited the temple in the late 1970s.