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.
This article was first published on June 2, 2014.
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