Hindu temple to reopen after $7m makeover

The view of the temple undergoing renovation and restoration from the new six-storey building at the back of the Serangoon Road compound. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
The view of the temple undergoing renovation and restoration from the new six-storey building at the back of the Serangoon Road compound. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
The old temple before a new one was built in the 1980s. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
The old temple before a new one was built in the 1980s. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Founded in 1835, the temple served as a place of refuge for devotees during the Japanese Occupation.  -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Founded in 1835, the temple served as a place of refuge for devotees during the Japanese Occupation.  -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Workers seen at the Sri Veeramakaliamman temple along Serangoon Road while it was undergoing renovation and restoration works. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Workers seen at the Sri Veeramakaliamman temple along Serangoon Road while it was undergoing renovation and restoration works. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Sculptor and painter Loganathan (left), 50, touches up a statue located on the gateway of the Sri Veeramakaliamman on Serangoon Road. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Sculptor and painter Loganathan (left), 50, touches up a statue located on the gateway of the Sri Veeramakaliamman on Serangoon Road. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
The $7-million renovation and restoration effort of  The Sri Veeramakaliamman on Serangoon Road  includes a six-storey building to house new dining halls and a function room for weddings. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
The $7-million renovation and restoration effort of  The Sri Veeramakaliamman on Serangoon Road  includes a six-storey building to house new dining halls and a function room for weddings. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Members of the public and devotees pay their respects at a makeshift prayer hall next to the current Sri Veeramakaliamman temple undergoing renovation and restoration. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Members of the public and devotees pay their respects at a makeshift prayer hall next to the current Sri Veeramakaliamman temple undergoing renovation and restoration. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Workers inside the main hall of the temple working around Sri Veeramakaliamman's unique silver flag post.-- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Workers inside the main hall of the temple working around Sri Veeramakaliamman's unique silver flag post.-- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
The facade of the next six-storey extension building of the Sri Veeramakaliamman temple on Serangoon Road. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
The facade of the next six-storey extension building of the Sri Veeramakaliamman temple on Serangoon Road. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Sculptor and painter Loganathan (left), 50, touches up a statue located on the gateway of the Sri Veeramakaliamman temple on Serangoon Road. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Sculptor and painter Loganathan (left), 50, touches up a statue located on the gateway of the Sri Veeramakaliamman temple on Serangoon Road. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
(Top) Sri Veeramakaliamman's unique silver flag post and (above) the old temple before a new one was built in the 1980s.
(Top) Sri Veeramakaliamman's unique silver flag post and (above) the old temple before a new one was built in the 1980s.ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN
Workers inside the main hall of the Sri Veeramakaliamman temple along Serangoon Road while it was undergoing renovation and restoration works. Seen in the centre is a unique silver flag post (currently wrapped in plastic sheets to protect it) which s
Workers inside the main hall of the Sri Veeramakaliamman temple along Serangoon Road while it was undergoing renovation and restoration works. Seen in the centre is a unique silver flag post (currently wrapped in plastic sheets to protect it) which symbolises a cosmic flag post to reach heaven. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Founded in 1835, historic place of worship has new 6-storey building

The Sri Veeramakaliamman temple is wrapping up a much needed two-year-long, $7-million makeover.

The renovation, which includes a new six-storey building at the back of the compound at 141 Serangoon Road, comes at a time when the temple's congregation has grown by about 30 per cent over the past decade.

On Sundays alone, about 5,000 devotees throng the place. This increase is due in part to a growing number of foreign workers who worship there, said the temple's management.

Restoration works, which started in December, involved a dozen craftsmen from Tamil Nadu.

The temple is one of 15 places of worship that have been listed for conservation by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) under its draft Master Plan 2013.

The URA said the temple is both historically and socially significant. For one thing, the Sri Veeramakaliamman is the oldest Hindu temple in the Kampong Kapor area. It was founded by Tamil pioneers in 1835. They first built a small clay shrine at the very site to pray to the goddess Veeramakaliamman for protection, prosperity, health and knowledge.

The current temple, which stands on freehold land that was purchased for $150 in 1908, was built at the cost of $2.2 million in 1987. It is about 1,300 sq m - the size of about 11 five-room flats.

The conservation has been a long time coming, said temple secretary Selvakumar R., 59, who brought in the craftsmen to work on painting as well as restoring the temple's 640 statues and deities depicting scenes from Hindu mythology.

"It deserves to be preserved as it is one of the oldest temples in Singapore and as an icon of Little India," said Mr Selvakumar.

The craftsmen also restored and painted the temple's eight domes and decorative cement fixtures on its ceilings and facade. Some of these feature gold foil embellishments and colourful stones.

URA's spokesman noted that the temple's silver flag post, which symbolises a cosmic link to heaven, is unique.

The temple, which served as a place of refuge for devotees during the Japanese Occupation, continues to be of relevance to the community today, she added.

To house the growing congregation, the six-storey building replaces an older one that was half its height. This has doubled the floor area to about 1,300 sq m.

Devotee Singaram Narayanan, 68, who has been going to the temple for the past 40 years, said he is looking forward to its reopening on June 22. During the renovation, worshippers prayed at the temple's front garden where its deities were housed temporarily.

"Already I can see the results of the restoration works. The paint is no longer as dull and the statues look more brilliant," he said.

The temple's management is expecting about 40,000 devotees to throng the place and its surrounding streets when it reopens.

melodyz@sph.com.sg