The Sri Thendayuthapani Temple, better known as the Chettiars' Temple or the Tank Road temple, is one of the Singapore Hindu community's most important monuments. It was gazetted as a national monument on 21 October 2014. It was built in 1859 by Nattukkottai Chettiar community.
This Hindu temple, dedicated to the six-faced Lord Subramaniam, is at its most active during the festival of Thaipusam. It is here that hundreds of pilgrims, their bodies pierced by hooks, spears and spiked steel structures called kavadi, end their Kavadi Attam procession from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple on Serangoon Road. This act of penance and propitiation is carried out by devotees in gratitude to Lord Subramanian, son of Lord Siva, for granting their prayers.
The community is deeply rooted in the Hindu tradition especially in the Saiva Siddhantha. Members of the community are very devoted to Sri Thendayuthapani also called as Lord Muruga.
But it was not until 35 years after their arrival in Singapore that they constructed a proper temple in honour of Sri Thendayuthapani. C M Turnbull, in her book A History of Singapore 1819-1975 records that they built the Subramaniam Temple (a popular name given to the temple by non Chettiars) in Tank Road in 1859.
However prior to that year, they had installed a Vel (spear), a weapon representation of Lord Muruga, under a tree where they offered their prayers. The Vel was installed below a pipal (arasa maram) tree at the bank of a tank (pond). Fresh water from the hill where the Central Park is now, emerged as a waterfall and filled the tank. The location was ideal for the establishment of a temple. The Chettiars took their bath there before offering their prayers to the Vel. The railway line nearby also provided an excellent form of transport to and from Malaya where they had also established their businesses.
The tree had to be uprooted when the government acquired the land for re-doing Tank Road. The site where the Vel was now forms part of the slip road that leads to River Valley Road and Clemenceau Avenue.
As quoted in their website, the slab stones found at Sri Thendayuthapani Temple show that the temple was consecrated on 4 November 1859. The community bought the land, where the present temple stands, from the estate of Mr Oxley, the first Surgeon General of Singapore.
The temple in its original form was of a simple structure. At the entrance to the temple, two raised platforms similar to that found in Chettiar households in Tamil Nadu were erected. It had an alangara mandapam and an artha mandapam. The alangara mandapam was used to house the decorated deities on special occasions while the artha mandapam was the centre hall leading to the main sanctum. The main sanctum was of course dedicated to Lord Muruga in the form of Sri Thendayuthapani.