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Sri Mariamman Temple
Photograph: Alen Thien/Shutterstock Sri Mariamman Temple

16 Buddhist and Hindu temples to visit in Singapore

A cultural melting pot, Singapore is home to plenty of religious sites that offer an insightful look at different customs

By Time Out Singapore editors and Cam Khalid
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As a country that prides itself on religious diversity and freedom, Singapore is home to plenty of temples, churches, mosques and other places of worship for those who practise the faith, as well as those curious to find out more. Learn more about Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism when you visit these temples in Singapore.

RECOMMENDED: The ultimate guide to Chinatown and the ultimate guide to Little India

Buddhist and Taoist temples

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Photograph: Saiko3p/Shutterstock

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum

Things to do Chinatown

Inspired by the Chinese Tang Dynasty, this temple in Chinatown underwent a major facelift, and reopened in 2007, welcoming worshippers and visitors to its temple, museum, library, garden, vegetarian restaurant and bookstore. There's a 15-foot Maitreya Buddha that sits on the ground floor of the main hall and on the third storey lies the Buddhist Cultural Museum. It displays a selection of rare artefacts detailing the history of Buddhism and the different traditions practised in Asian countries. Located at the rear of the hall, you’ll find the Sacred Buddha Relics Chamber. This houses what are regarded as the brains, blood, muscle and flesh relics of Buddha. According to the religion’s beliefs, these items are supposedly Buddha’s body in eternal form.

Thian Hock Keng Temple
Thian Hock Keng Temple
Photograph: Hit1912/Shutterstock

Thian Hock Keng Temple

Things to do Tanjong Pagar

A century ago, Telok Ayer Street was right up against the sea. And this temple, known as the Temple of Heavenly Happiness, was popular with newly arrived immigrants, who came here to burn incense in thanks to Ma Cho Po (a Taoist deity and protector of seafarers) for their safe arrival. Some of the materials used in the temple were taken from the boats, including the rooftop mosaic. Inside, the main altar features a statue of Ma Cho Po, and other deities of luck, war and punishment.

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Wat Ananda Metyarama Thai Buddhist Temple
Wat Ananda Metyarama Thai Buddhist Temple
Photograph: Huntergol Hp/Shutterstock

Wat Ananda Metyarama Thai Buddhist Temple

Things to do Bukit Merah

You don't have to cross borders to visit a Thai Buddhist temple. First constructed in 1925, Wat Ananda Metyarama Thai Buddhist Temple is one of the oldest Thai Theravada Buddhist temples in Singapore. After undergoing several facelifts, its new extension was completed in 2014 and houses the new monks' quarters, meditation halls, classrooms, and a museum. The temple is a beautiful juxtaposition of traditional and modern, which comes as no surprise that it was nominated for the 2014 World Architecture Festival Awards.

Burmese Buddhist Temple
Burmese Buddhist Temple
Photograph: Iloilo Wanderer/Wikimedia Commons

Burmese Buddhist Temple

Things to do Novena

Founded in 1875, this temple is one the oldest Theravada institutions and the only Burmese Buddhist temple of its kind in Singapore. The traditional Burmese architectural-style temple is home to the 10-tonne, 11-foot white marble Buddha statue that arrived from Mandalay in 1918. The statue boasts the worthy accolade of being the largest pure white marble statue of Buddha outside of Myanmar. It also has a Bodhi tree with an origin that traces back to the original Bodhi tree where Buddha attained enlightenment.

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Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery

Attractions Religious buildings and sites Toa Payoh

This 1908 Buddhist monastery – Siong Lim Temple, for short – is the oldest in Singapore. An 11-year, $40-million restoration project was completed in 2002 (using carpenters and artisans from China), but it still remains a fine specimen of classic Chinese-style architecture – it's specially modelled after the Xi Chang Shi Temple in Fuzhou, South China. Highlights include the two magnificent 9.1-metre wooden entrance gates and the 29-metre Dragon Light Pagoda built entirely of granite and topped with a golden spire.

Qi Tian Gong Temple
Qi Tian Gong Temple
Photo: URA

Qi Tian Gong Temple

Attractions Religious buildings and sites Tiong Bahru

As Singapore’s first – and possibly only – temple dedicated to the Monkey God, this 97-year-old temple has more than ten statues of the Taoist deity within its premises. Some of them even date back over a century, making this beautifully anachronistic building (it’s right in the middle of hipster central, Tiong Bahru) a heritage hotspot where your kids can live and breathe history. Look out for Uncle Lim, the chatty temple caretaker who’ll tell you all about the Monkey God and its many different incarnations.

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Mun San Fook Tuck Chee

Attractions Geylang

One of the oldest Cantonese temples in Singapore with 150 years of history, Mun San Fook Tuck Chee temple used to be a communal hub for coolies. Also known as Sar Kong Temple, the building sits on land that is slated to be redeveloped. It is home to the Sar Kong Mun San Fook Tuck Chee Lion Dance Troupe that puts up a fire dragon performance where a straw dragon is lit up in flames and paraded up and down the streets of the HDB flats nearby, like it once did in the nearby villages back in the day.

Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple

Things to do Rochor

This Buddhist temple, built in 1884, is dedicated to Kwan Im (also called Guanyin), the goddess of mercy, and was used as a refuge for the sick and destitute during the Japanese occupation. Today, hundreds of worshippers flood in every day; the main prayer hall is a flurry of activity as people take turns to kneel on the prayer carpet in front of the golden Buddha, where they shake i-ching sticks.

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Poh Ern Shih Temple

Things to do Kent Ridge

Located on a small hilltop, 'Temple of Thanksgiving' is Singapore's first ecologically green temple. First built in 1954 as a memorial to those who lost their lives during the Battle of Pasir Panjang in 1942, the Buddhist temple was rebuilt in 2003, complete with solar energy cells on its rooftop.

Wak Hai Cheng Bio Temple

Things to do Raffles Place

Also known as the Calm Sea Temple, built in 1826 by Teochew fisherman. Set back from the road, the temple’s wide forecourt is dominated by incense coils hung on wires. Note the large kilns for burning ‘hell money’ and other offerings to the dead.

Hindu temples

Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple
Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple
Photograph: Galina Savina/Shutterstock

Sri Mariamman Temple

Things to do Chinatown

Oddly enough, the biggest and oldest Hindu temple in Singapore is found in the middle of Chinatown. Dedicated to the Goddess of Rain, Mariamman, it was built (as a humble shed) in 1827 by Naraina Pillai, the first recorded Indian immigrant to enter colonised Singapore (he travelled with Raffles from Penang). It's famous for its staggeringly detailed gopuram (tower gateway), and was declared a National Monument of Singapore in 1973. It is also the site of Theemidhi, a remarkable fire-walking ceremony held a week before the Hindu festival Deepavali.

Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple
Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple
Photograph: ScribblingGeek/Wikimedia Commons

Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple

Things to do Marine Parade

It's hard to miss this Hindu temple in Katong, with its five-tiered, 68-feet-tall golden entrance tower. The Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple dates back to the 1850s when a statue of Lord Vinayagar was discovered by the side of a pond where a Chempaka tree – Senpaga in Tamil – stood on its bank. What started as a small, modest place of worship under the Chempaka tree has expanded to include the main prayer hall which is centred around four granite pillars, each of which has eight sculptures depicting Lord Vinayagar, among others.

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Sri Krishnan Temple
Sri Krishnan Temple
Photograph: Hit1912/Shutterstock

Sri Krishnan Temple

Things to do Rochor

What began in 1870 as a banyan tree with a few deities placed next to it has evolved into a vivid, colourful temple dedicated to Lord Krishna, the supreme god in Hindu cosmology. Much of the current building was constructed in the 1980s and don't be surprised when you see Chinese devotees light joss sticks here as well – the temple is located close to Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple and the management even built an altar dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin, within its temple's grounds.

Sri Thendayuthapani Temple

Attractions Religious buildings and sites City Hall

Sri Thendayuthapani Temple, also known as Chettiars’ Temple, was built in 1859 and is one of Singapore’s oldest temples and stands as a living testimony to the Chettiars’ contributions to Singapore’s colonial economy. Throughout the years, it has gone through numerous restorations, but its original design featured a simple structure with two raised platforms at the entrance that were similar to that found in Chettiar houses. With the Hindu God of War, Lord Murugan, as the main deity, the temple is also where you can witness the annual Thaipusam Festival in all its glory.

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Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
Photograph: Korkusung/Shutterstock

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

Things to do Rochor

A popular focal point in Little India, the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is dedicated to the Goddess Kali, often misrepresented in the West as a deity of destruction, but actually a benevolent (if powerful) figure. The building was apparently constructed by Bengali immigrants, and completed in 1881, but like all such monuments in Singapore has gone through many extensions and renovations over the years. The gopuram (tower entrance) is strikingly decorated with multicoloured depictions of numerous Hindu deities, while the main shrine houses a jet black statue of Kali, flanked by her sons Ganesha and Murugam. You can spot those who have been blessed at this temple: they have white ash on their forehead, rather than the usual dark colours.

Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple
Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple
Photograph: Daniel Ferryanto/Shutterstock

Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple

Things to do Kallang

Completed in 1855, this 166-year-old temple was recently restored to the tune of $4.5 million but it's also been renovated several times, particularly in the 1960s, with the five-tiered gopuram erected only as recently as 1979. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the temple features decorations of the deity in his many incarnations. Statues of him, his consorts and Garuda (the bird he flies on) can be seen inside. The temple was also gazetted as a national monument in 1978.

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