A Hindu temple in the heart of Dhoby Ghaut, which was established 155 years ago, became Singapore's 67th national monument yesterday.
The Sri Thendayuthapani Temple at 15 Tank Road joins 29 other religious institutions on the National Heritage Board's (NHB) list.
The centre of activity for the Republic's community of Nattukottai Chettiars, it is the third Hindu temple to be gazetted as a national monument since the scheme started in 1973.
The other two are the Sri Perumal Temple and Sri Mariamman Temple.
Some 40,000 devotees throng the temple during Thaipusam every year, and every day some 200 devotees pray there.
The building is now legally protected by the Preservation of Monuments Act, which means all works on it must be approved by the NHB's Preservation of Sites and Monuments (PSM) division. It is the highest order of preservation status in Singapore.
Other national monuments include the St Andrew's Cathedral, the Sultan Mosque and the Civilian War Memorial.
PSM director Jean Wee said the temple, which serves as a base for the Chettiar community's economic and religious activities, was awarded the status in recognition of its social, cultural and historical role.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong officiated at a ceremony to gazette the temple yesterday.
Chettiars, a subgroup of the Tamil community originating from Chettinad in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, first came to Singapore in the early 1800s, working as traders, merchant bankers and financiers.
They established financial institutions such as the Indian Bank and Indian Overseas Bank.
Ms Wee added that the temple itself is an architectural treasure.
Rebuilt between 1979 and 1983 at a cost of about $3.3 million, it boasts a 23m-high gopuram, or entrance tower, which has five tiers decorated with colourful idols such as those of Shiva, Vishnu, Brama and Ganesha.
The gopuram is also one of the tallest in South-east Asia and the grandest in Singapore.
Both the temple's management and its devotees welcomed the gazette.
Said retired bank officer Kannan Subramaniam, 75, who has been worshipping there since 1959: "It has a special place in my heart... It is important to both the community and the country."
Chettiars' Temple Society honorary secretary N. Shanmugam, 57, said the temple - dedicated to the Hindu deity Murugan - is an iconic landmark and a place of respite for the closely knit Chettiar community, which has grown from just 18 families in the 1950s to about 800 families today.
He added: "We believe this will raise the temple's profile even further and make it more popular with tourists and locals. Visitors will also be able to experience the Chettiar culture, architecture and hospitality in one place."
This article was first published on Oct 21, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.