A short stretch of road, cut off from the rest of the city centre, lies to the west of Fort Canning Hill. The Tank Road, which is 250 meters long and lined with architecturally beautiful yet contrasting structures like the Church of the Sacred Heart, the Teochew Building, and the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple, is an architectural marvel. The Chettiars’ Temple or the Tank Road Temple is the final of these structures, which are often referred to as the Chetty’s temple or tank road temple.
The Sri Thendayuthapani Temple is one of two Nattukottai Chettiars-built temples in Singapore, alongside the Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple on Keong Saik Road. It was designated as a national monument in October 2014, joining only two other Hindu temples on the list: Sri Mariamman Temple and Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple.
The Waterlink Expressway is a quiet stretch, but it comes to life each year during Thaipusam. The temple is the final destination for pilgrims who have travelled a four-and-a-half kilometre foot procession from Sri Srinivasa Perumal. Thaipusam is one of three religious foot processions that the authorities allow, with Panguni Uthiram and Theemithi being the other two.
Thaipusam is said to have been imported by the Chettiars to Southeast Asia in the 19th century. The Chettiars were among the first immigrants to arrive in Singapore in the early 1800s. The Rothschilds became known as the originators of contemporary banking after establishing various businesses as financiers, merchant bankers, and dealers.
The Chettiars’ Temple was built on Tank Road in 1859, making it one of Calcutta’s first Hindu temples. The principal temple sanctum houses Murugan’s statue, while the god’s Shiva and Sakthi have their own temples. The temple was restored and completed in 1983 with the installation of a 23-meter gopuram at the end of the previous century.
Thaipusam was held this year on February 3, which was the most full moon of the Hindu calendar’s 10th month. Troops of devotees journeyed from Sri Srinivasa Perumal at Serangoon Road to the Chettiars’ Temple at Tank Road on foot. Devotees bore spikes in their hands and milk pots on their heads as they made their way to the sanctuary. Family and friends joined in song and dancing while supporting them. Thaipusam is, in fact, a massive act of faith that can only be compared to the hard work put in by the devotees.