Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple - Singapore

Veeramakali Amman Temple is the second oldest temple in Singapore (first being Mariamman Temple) and is located in the heart of Little India. Built with a Dravidian style architecture, it has a long history and has undergone many changes. Did you know that this temple was used as a bomb shelter during Japanese air raids in 1942? Apart from the thousands of Indian devotees, hundreds of Chinese and westerners visit this temple everyday. Everything you see here today has been renovated, I mean EVERYTHING..idols, walls, towers and even ceremonies have changed. Let us delve into this mysterious temple dedicated to Veeramakali, the Goddess who punishes all evil doers.
The front tower (gopuram) of Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
Essential Information:
Address: 141, Serangoon Road, Singapore - 218042.
E-mail: info@sriveeramakaliamman.com
Phone: 62954538 ; 62934634
Fax: 63924249
Timings: 8 A.M to 12.30 P.M ; 4 P.M to 8.30 P.M; Open Everyday
Entrance Fee: Free
Photography: Allowed

Note: It is often erroneously assumed that Veermakali is Kali, a Hindu Goddess most popular in West Bengal. However, Veeramakaliamman is a Tamil God with distinctly different history. Click here to learn more.
A rare photo of Veeramakali Amman temple before demolition in 1983
Temple History:

Initial Temple: In 1843, a small group of Tamil potter (Kuyavar) community workers migrated from Batang Berjuntai (now Bestari Jaya) migrated to Singapore. They had been involved in building lime kilns and railroads in Malaysia and had already established a primitive Veeramakali Amman Temple in Batang Berjuntai, Selangor, Malaysia. Soon after arriving in Singapore, they established a small clay statue of Veeramakaliamman in Serangoon Road. This marked the beginning of the large temple complex which stands now. However, the statue remained even without a ceiling or an entrance for the next 10 years making it convenient for pedestrians to do a "quick worship" as they passed by. In 1854, a small primitive roof made of palm leaves was built. Over the next 50 years, this small temple saw minimal development.
The front view of the old Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, Singapore
Mid-Temple: In 1908, the clay statue of Veeramakaliamman started developing cracks, causing an uproar from the devotees. A stone statue was immediately ordered from Madurai, India. The clay statue was buried ceremoniously under the temple and the stone statue replaced it. In the next decade, many statues of other Tamil gods such as Periyachi and Murugan were brought from Tamil Nadu, India. The new statues made the temple expand a little, and the roof was rebuilt with concrete.However, the temple would remain small and distinctly Dravidian until its demolition in 1983. This means that the priest was not a brahmin (high caste), chantings were in Tamil and animal sacrifices were made.
A side view of the old Veeramakali Amman temple, also called "Sunnambukal Kovil"
Mounting Pressure: In early 1970s Singapore Government banned animal sacrifice, prohibiting goat and chicken sacrifices in the Temple. Simultaneously, the Government felt that there were too many small temples scattered around Singapore for a minority population. This meant that the temple "be expanded or be demolished". The temple authorities also faced pressure from a sizable influx of Indians, particularly from the north. The north Indians felt that the temple should accommodate all deities, and should become an agamic (proper Hindu) temple.
The new temple has colorful statues inside and has a plethora of Hindu Gods
Final Temple: The first blueprint for a larger temple was drawn in 1975 and fundraising activities began slowly. Towards the end of 1983, the old temple was demolished and construction began soon after. The construction took 4 years and the new Temple had a grand opening in 1987, with a cost of 2.2 million Singapore dollars. The new temple you see today has many Hindu deities, along with Tamil gods. It also replaced the priests with brahmins, and has become an agamic temple. It sports a colorful tower in the front, beautiful statues inside and can accommodate more people.
Statue of Veeramakaliamman is 2 feet tall and 1 feet wide
Deities:

Veeramakaliamman: The primary deity of the temple is surprisingly small with just 2 feet in height and is made of jet black stone. The rest of the body is often heavily ornamented, and the face shows a distinct feeling of rage and anger. While the original clay statue had only 2 hands, the current statue has 8 hands holding multiple weapons and instruments.

Vinayagar: Originally called Ganesha, he is the Hindu God with the head of an elephant and a human torso. He is the only son of Shiva and Parvathi according to Sanskrit texts. He must be worshiped first, before the beginning of any ceremony. This large elephant god travels mounted on a tiny mouse, which is oxymoronic unless you learn the underlying philosophy.
Periyachi Amman is a Tamil God with a fascinating story
Periyachi Amman: Periyachi is another Tamil God who is considered the protector of newborn babies and pregnant women. It is customary for pregnant women to pray to her to ensure a healthy delivery. The statue of Periyachi depicts the God who disembowels a woman while holding a newborn baby in her left hand. Intrigued? Read the story of Periyachi here!

Dakshinamurthy: He is the only God in Hinduism, who always faces south. Dakshinamurthy is the God of education, and is known as the omniscient guru. According to Hindu mythology, it is Shiva himself. He is commonly seen in Hindu temples of South India.
Lakshmi Durgai is mounted on a lion and has 18 hands (look closer)
Lakshmi Durgai: Durga, the Hindu Goddess of Victory in combination with Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. This is a unique representation of two Gods, which is not seen in any other temple. Durga, also known as Mahishasuramardini is worshiped for protection against evil. The dominant aspect of this statue is Durga, however the face reflects the calmness of Lakshmi.

Murugan: A much venerated Tamil God, whose temples are found all over South India, Ceylon, Malaysia and Singapore. Murugan is mentioned in ancient Tamil texts as early as 4th century B.C. Later, efforts were made to combine him with proper "Hindu" mythology which proved futile. While the Tamil community considers him as a son of Shiva, the majority of Hindus do not accept this concept.

Ramar: A Tamilized version of Rama from Sanskrit, a well known god and the hero of the Hindu epic Ramayana. One of the few Hindu gods who was monogamous, and is worshiped by women to keep their husbands faithful. Note that this is the only statue in this temple that represents Vishnu.
From left to right: Madurai Veeran, Sinna Karuppar & Periya Karuppa
Periya Karuppar: He is depicted in plenty of Tamil villages and has many temples where he is the primary God. Sometimes he is a stand alone God but at other times, he is depicted with his brother Sinna Karuppar. Also known as Karuppu or Karuppasamy, he often appears with his white horse and a hunting dog.

Sinna Karuppar: Also spelled as Chinna Karuppar, he is the younger brother of Periya Karuppar. Known for his loyalty and fierce fighting skills, he never stands alone. His statue cannot be present without his brother.

Muthal Raja: A truly fascinating Tamil God with rags to riches history, eventually attaining divine status.  Also known as Muthala arasan or simply Muthalan, he is immensely popular in villages of Tamil Nadu. Unlike his counterparts, he sports a very unique look. Bearded and sitting down calmly like a saint, and is worshiped for his intelligence and bravery.
Idumbar carries two mountains on either side of the sling
Idumbar: A stone statue of this deity shows a determined face and carries a heavy sling. The heavy sling is called Kavadi, which devotees still ceremoniously carry during Thai Poosam festival. Also known as Idumban, he is the epitome of discipline and duty. According to mythology, Idumban fought against Murugan, when he hindered him from carrying the sling to the destination.

Chandikeswarar: In front of this statue, devotees clap loudly or snap their fingers. Instead of bowing or saluting with hands together, Chandikeswarar prefers that people clap in front of him. For this reason, Chandikeswarar is often called the "Deaf God" (Sevuttu Saami).

Sani: Representing the planet Saturn, this God is often referred to as "Saneeswaran" or "Sani Baghavan". According to Hindu astrology, the presence of Saturn plays an important role in your well being. People who experience difficult periods in life give offerings to Sani, to appease him.

Other important deities in this temple are Kasi Viswanathar, Visalatchi, Bhairavar, Nagar and Madurai Veeran.

Special Events:

Thai Poosam (Jan-Feb): This festival is so popular that it is a public holiday in Singapore and Malaysia. Thai Poosam falls on the full moon day of Tamil month Thai. On this day, devotees take up self-punishment for their wrong doings. Self impalement on tongues and skin, flagellation and carrying Kavadi (heavy sling) on shoulders are done.
A devotee wears a fake mustache, eyebrows and makeup - carries a firepot during Periyachi Poojai
Aadi (August) Periyachi Poojai: This is a special event to appease the ever-angry Periachi Amman. On this day you can see Tamil musical instruments such as Urumi Melam and Udukkai. The Kodangi (Tamil priest) often appears make up to appear fierce and goes into a trance. He also carries a hot pot to appease the God. Goat and chicken were sacrificed until the early 1970s, before Singapore outlawed animal sacrifices.

Annual Brahma Utsavam (February): A holy flag is raised in the temple (kodi yetram) in honor of Veeramakali Amman, and she will be taken around in a chariot. Many holy kumbams (vessels) will be distributed to devotees who chant the deity's name. This festival is celebrated every year and many senior citizens actively take part on this occasion.
Murugan with his two wives Valli & Deivanai - decorated for Kanda Sashti festival
Kanda Sashti (November): Another important festival for Murugan, and is celebrated for a few days during the Tamil month of Aippasi. Sashti denotes the 6th day of waxing moon. According to mythology, this is the day Murugan killed the demon Tarakasura.  Ornamentation (alangaaram) is the key feature of this festival.

Panguni Uthram (March): This occurs on the full moon day of Tamil month Panguni. According to mythology, Lord Murugan married Deivanai on this day. Therefore the wedding is recreated by priests every year in the temple. Also, Murugan is placed on a chariot and is taken outside the temple on the Serangoon road. Thousands of people gather to watch this spectacle.
Gold and silver plated coins with deities engraved are sold in the temple premises
Office & Archanai: The temple includes a shop which sells a variety of religious items. Books, archanai tickets, religious items and souvenirs are sold here. Every new year, gold plated coins and silver plated coins with deities' emblems are also released. Credit cards, ezlink cards and cash are accepted. There are three different types of archanai (personal worship) you can make in this temple. Banana archanai (70 cents), coconut archanai ($1.50) and navagraha archanai ($6.30).
A large 6 story building is being built to accommodate the growing religious & cultural activities
Veerakaliamman Temple Activity Center: Behind the temple, a 6 story building is being built to accommodate a variety of religious and cultural activities. Fundraising is in full swing as of 2014, to finish this structure. According to the plan, the first (ground) floor will contain the kitchen and free food distribution (anna dhaanam) hall. The second floor will be an elaborate dining area which connects the kitchen below and the wedding hall on the third floor. The fourth floor will be used for storage and administrative purposes. The fifth floor will contain lodging facilities for temple staff and the final floor will be used for multipurpose activities including meetings, cultural activities and extra lodging facilities.

Visiting Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is certainly one of the top 10 things to do in Singapore. Like the Mariamman Temple, this temple is one of the most revered places of worship in Singapore. This is a fascinating place not only for tourists, but also to local Singaporeans. Don't forget to visit this fantastic temple while you are in Little India. Now, let us look deeply into who Veeramakaliamman really is!

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