History of the Sri Mariamman Temple
The history of the temple dates back to 1827 when Narayana Pillay, who was a clerk in Penang built a simple hut from attap and wood. He placed a small deity inside the hut and thus the temple started to function. Donation made by Seshasalam Pillay, an Indian landowner helped in the extension of the temple.
The temple was built in 1843. Ex-convicts from India were engaged in the construction of the temple. They were specially skilled in the art of plasterwork. The temple is a dedication to the goddess Mariamman, worshipped to prevent sickness and death. The Sri Mariamman Temple was a shelter for the newly arrived immigrants, providing refuge till they got permanent shelter and work. The temple was also the main place of worship and now it is a famous national and cultural heritage center.
Architecture of the History of the Sri Mariamman Temple
The Sri Mariamman Temple is inspired by the Dravidian style of architecture. The "gopuram" or the tower is the most distinctive feature of the temple. There are floral decorations, images of Hindu deities flanked by the statues of Vishnu and Shiva above the temple's entrance. The main prayer room is inside the temple and it has beautifully decorated ceilings. The temple's 4 shrines are ornately decorated with onion-domes on the top. The tower or the "gopuram" over the temple's entrance is adorned with sculptures of mythological beasts, gods and goddesses. The tower is pretty much visible from a distance and the devotees can offer their prayers without even entering the temple. Strings of coconut-leaves and fresh mangoes hang above the doors of the temple standing as signs of purity and welcome.
Rituals at the Sri Mariamman Temple
Like all other Hindu temples the Sri Mariamman Temple also observes certain rituals. Devotees are asked to remove their shoes before entering the precincts of the temple. They wash their hands, and feet in order to purify their body. At the temple door devotees ring the bells and pray to god to grant their wishes. There is an aluminum enclosure in front of the door where coconuts are broken by the devotees and this ritual symbolizes the breaking of egos to unveil the pure inner selves. It is considered as a symbol of good luck to encircle the hall of the temple in a clock-wise direction a number of times.
The temple undergoes re-consecration once in 12 years as per the Hindu tradition. Every year about one week before the Festival of lights, Deepavali, the spectacular fire-walking ceremony known as the Thimithi takes place.
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