Unique and Insta-Worthy: 15 Temples & Mosques in Singapore With Interesting Architecture, History, and Folklore
No matter the type, or religion, there’s no denying the sense of majestic magic that temples and mosques hold. You’ll find your fair share of them across Southeast Asia, but when you’ve got a city with many diverse cultures such as Singapore, you’ve hit the jackpot!
With a plethora of sacred locations, these temples and mosques around the city each have their own special story to share, or their breathtaking design to behold.
Grab your camera, notebooks (all you history fans) and get exploring!
1. Prepare to be breathtaken: Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum
For starters, this traditional red, four-storey temple really is awe-inspiring from the moment you take sight of it. Each level is constructed with it’s own rooftop, making the architectural design a bold, interesting and beautiful feature of the temple.
Just as the name states, it was constructed to house the holy tooth relic of Buddha (found within the Sacred Buddha Relics Chamber), and there’s also a museum that holds rare artefacts, a library, a garden, a vegetarian restaurant and a bookstore on-site.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
2. The city’s largest (and most peaceful) monastery: Kong Meng San
If you’re looking for a quick in-and-out, we suggest heading elsewhere. You’re going to need a good few hours exploring these (massive) temple grounds.
As Singapore’s largest monastery, there are many rooms and halls to discover, pagodas topped with dragons, detailed shrines and gardens included. There is also a Bodhi Tree which is believed to have come from the original sacred Bodhi Tree at Buddha Gaya.
But it’s not just the impressive scenery that seems to draw people in. Everyone who enters and leaves has the same feeling; one of total peace. You’ll notice the grounds are very quiet, so please respect the silence.
3. Get whisked away in this whimsical design: Abdul Gafoor Mosque
Is this a palace? A castle in eastern Europe or in India? Using a mixture of Roman, Arabian and South Indian design, this mosque built in 1859 is visually stunning.
Visitors can take a walk around the exterior of the grounds – and the yellow, white and green colours, along with traditional patterns, have made the exteriors somewhat of a really great backdrop.
4. Declared a National Monument in 1973: Sri Mariamman Temple
First built in 1827, this temple is not only the oldest shrine in Singapore but it’s incredibly detailed design, typical of Dravidian-style architecture, cannot be missed – literally.
Located smack bang in the middle of Chinatown, the colourful entrance adorned in statues of Hindu deities of extreme detail will call your name, even if you’re just simply passing by, all six tiers of them!
The temple was originally built in honour of the Goddess Mariamman (a deity of protection and disease), and in earlier years it acted as a place of safety for immigrants from the South Indian Tamil Hindu community.
5. The perfect backdrop: Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery (Siong Lim Temple)
While it may not be the largest, it most certainly is the oldest monastery in Singapore and this seven-storey pagoda was modelled and designed based on the Xi Chang Si Temple in Fuzhou, China – not the Leaning Tower of Pisa!
If an expert in the subject, you may have noticed they’ve adapted the principles of feng shui to create a flow and inner harmony amongst the grounds.
Impressive in size, enter through the 9-metre high gates and take a gander around the rock garden and prayer halls filled with bonsai trees and wooden carvings, Buddha statues and intricate building details such as bronzed dragon door knobs.
6. Regal in all its design: Sultan Mosque
Built by the first-ever Sultan of Singapore, the pure grandeur of the place is really impressive – and super easy on the eyes.
Making it easy to spot, simply lookout for one of the giant, golden domes that top its rooftops and you’re headed in the right direction.
Undergoing construction in 1928, devotees donated hundreds of glass bottles which were transformed and used to build the mosque’s dome base.
7. Ever visited a contemporary temple before?: Wat Ananda Metyarama Thai Buddhist Temple
This is not your traditional Buddhist temple in design by any means, and although it once was, after undergoing reconstruction, it also got a whole new contemporary design.
While still keeping elements of authentic Thailand, a part of the building was revamped in 2014 with a super modern architectural take – so much so, it was nominated for the World Architecture Festival Awards that same year.
Now mixing the old with the new, revel in its contrasts from the minimalistic modern design against authentic Thai finishes such as the Naga entrance stairway.
8. For those that appreciate ginormous Buddha tributes: Maha Sasanaramsi (The Burmese Buddhist Temple)
Get this; inside this temple stands an incredible, pure white marble statue of Buddha and it is the largest of its kind outside of Myanmar.
The entire surroundings are all very grand, from the huge white pillars running from floors to ceiling. Around the statue of Buddha is also a bright, golden light that reflects off of the marble floors, creating a sort of glow around the scene. It’s pretty mesmerising!
9. Intriguing even from the entrance exteriors: Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
A beautiful sight awaits: from the entrance’s gopuram (tower) covered in colourful and intricate statues, to the temple ceilings splashed in beautiful paintings of various Hindu gods.
A ridiculously striking site, you’ll notice the varying sculptures that cling to the building’s walls. Focusing on the 14-handed Hindu Goddess Kali (a deity who stands for change and power and is known to help get rid of evil), you can also spot the nine reincarnations of Vishnu.
10. Otherwise known as the ‘temple of a thousand lights’: Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple
This Thai temple was built by Thai monks in 1927 and inside you’ll discover a 300 tonne, 5 metre high statue of Buddha – and around it surrounded by 1000 lights, hence the name. (The lights also add a mystical glow to the space.)
Take a walk through the temple and learn of the different stories of Buddha as depicted through murals. This sacred ground is also home to a piece of bark from the original Bodhi tree that Buddha sat underneath when searching for enlightenment.
11. The city’s first ecologically-green temple: Poh Ern Shih Temple
Sometimes the location can make all the difference, and if you want to escape the city hustle and bustle… Head over to this hillside and take in the total serenity of the temple.
You’ll find that this all-white site is Singapore’s first eco-green temple adopting practises such as solar energy.
The Buddhist-run grounds were first built in 1954, with a renovation in 2007 seeing the new integration of the ecologically-friendly temple.
12. Even without colour, this is still astounding: Sri Sivan Temple
One of the few and only temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, this octagon-shaped place of worship celebrates both North and South Indian design styles.
The exterior is completely colourless,making this large temple stand out in vast contrast to the busy and colourful streets and buildings surrounding it. And if you take a closer look, you’ll notice the complex design that the walls, entrance and building encompass.
13. Ever visited a temple dedicated to the Monkey God?: Qi Tian Gong Temple
One of the only places you will stumble upon in the city that is dedicated to the Monkey God Sun Wu Kong.
It isn’t an overtly large space, and it’s in fact pretty unassuming from the outside, you may even mistake it for a shop. But once inside, you’ll find over 10 monkey god statues – and the oldest of them is nearly 100 years old!
14. Insta backdrop or temple?: Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple
We’re just going to go ahead and point out how obviously pretty this temple is – it’s exterior walls are like a pastel-coloured haven.
Spot it walking up the street from a mile away as the soft as sunshine yellow entrance tower stands tall, and the walls of the temple hold deities created in shades of pinks, purples and pastel orange.
The main prayer hall is surrounded by four granite pillars, each composed of eight sculptures that depict Lord Vinayagar.
The story is that in 1850, a statue of Lord Vinayagar washed up on the waterbank where a Senpaga/Chempaka Tree was growing. Worshippers began using this area to give thanks, and today it’s where the main hall stands.
15. For a taste of Singapore’s diverse cultures: Loyang Dua Pek Gong
This particular temple is famous among locals for being an auspicious place that often grants your prayer requests. It’s also the only temple grounds in the city that celebrates three religions under one roof; Taoism, Buddhism and Hinduism.
So how did this dynamic mix come about? In the early 1980s, a bunch of statues were found on a coastline near Loyang Way; they were actually a collection of Hindu, Taoist and Biddhist statues. A small housing was formed on the beach to hold the statues, as well as for worship but this was burnt down in a fire in 1996.
In 2000, the new building was built, where it is still home today celebrating all three religions.
From the unique tales behind the buildings, to the histories that give each place of worship its special features, Singapore is bursting with a diverse array of temples to visit.
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