The Sri Krishnan Temple was established in 1870 when Hanuman Beem Singh set up an idol of Sri Krishna under a banyan tree on Waterloo Street, so as to cater to the religious needs of a large Hindu community that had established itself in the area bound by Bras Basah Road, Victoria Street and Albert Street. Little is known about Beem Singh. According to his great granddaughter, he was deported by the British administration from India to Singapore.
When Beem Singh became too old to manage the temple, he passed on the responsibility to his son, Humna Somapah. Then in 1904, the role of managing the temple was taken on by Somapah’s niece, Joognee Ammal, who built the main shrine. In 1935, Ammal passed on the management to V. Pakirisamy Pillai, who built the temple’s hall and walls in memory of his mother Alamaylo Ammal.
Pillai was the son of Koona Vayloo Pillai, a wealthy Tamil businessman. When his father died in 1931, Pillai and his brother Narayanasamy Pillai inherited his father’s estate. A chief court clerk with the firm Allen and Gledhill, Pillai was chairman of the four main Hindu temples’ management committee. He was also a member of the Singapore Advisory Council from 1946 to 1948 and the Advisory Committee under the Emergency Regulations in 1948, as well as a municipal commissioner from 1949 to 1950. In addition, he was president of the Inter-Religious Organisation and the Singapore Indian Association. Pillai was made a justice of the peace in 1947. For his social and community work, he was also conferred the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1952, the Coronation Medal in 1953, and the Bintang Bakti Masharakat in 1970 by then president of Singapore.
After Pillai’s death in May 1984, his son Sivaraman took over the role of managing the temple. Under Sivaraman’s leadership, the temple underwent extensive renovation works from 1985 to 1989. Then in November 1989, the Maha Kumbhabishekam or consecration ceremony was held and presided over by the guest-of-honour, then Minister for Community Development and Foreign Affairs Wong Kan Seng.
As Sri Krishnan Temple’s location is very near to the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, many Chinese devotees also light joss sticks at the Sri Krishnan Temple. The management of Sri Krishnan Temple thus decided to build an altar dedicated to Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, within the temple grounds.
The Sri Krishnan Temple underwent several renovations during its history. By 2016, the compound was about 1,008 sq m and comprised a 220-square-metre prayer hall, as well as a 788-square-metre four-storey annexe with a basement of multi-purpose rooms.
The temple was built in a classic, Southern Indian style, in accordance with the Agama Sastra, which prescribes the rules for the construction of temples. Its main entrance is decorated with statues depicting the 10 incarnations of Hindu deity Vishnu, a wedding scene and Garuda, Vishnu’s mount. The gopuram (main entrance tower) is double-sided and decorated with statues studded with semi-precious stones.
Constructed in 1933, the temple’s main shrine is made of manually ground Chinese pebbles and granite, and features multiple cornices and pilasters. Located above the main shrine is a dome which forms the tallest point of the temple. The dome, which was also constructed in 1933, is adorned with deities, as well as copper and gold plating with intricate design.
In June 2014, the temple’s gopuram, main prayer hall and surrounding boundary walls were gazetted for conservation.
Reproduced with permission from National Library Board
Author: Thulaja Naidu
Text credit: Infopedia, National Library, Singapore