- Indian migrants began to arrive in what was Brit-ish Malaya during the 19th century, primarily with the intent of finding employment on the sug-arcane and rubber plantations that British entre-preneurs had established. The Crown Colony of Singapore served as an initial point of arrival for Indian migrants, most of whom quickly moved north. However, many chose to stay on the island. Most were from lower-caste families, and more than 60 percent from Tamil Nadu state. By 1900 some 16,000 had arrived.By the beginning of the 20th century, four Hindu temples had been established in Singapore. The oldest of these, Sri Mariammam, was started in 1827; the present structure was erected in 1843 and dedicated to the goddess MARIYAMMAN, revered for her healing powers. In 1905, after complaints of mismanagement affecting a variety of religious institutions, administration of the temples was turned over to the Mohammedan and Hindu Charitable Endowments Board. That board continued to exist until 1969, when it was split into two boards, one for each religion. In 1915, a second structure, the Hindu Advisory Board, was established to advise the government on Hinduism. Both boards continue to the pres-ent. In the meantime the number of temples had grown to around 30 and the number of Hindus of Indian extraction had risen to about 225,000. The Indian community is now the third largest ethnic group in Singapore behind the Chinese and Malays.Hindu activity in Singapore is dominated by the majority Tamil-speaking community. Local temples tend to be home to devotees of both SHAIVISM and VAISHNAVISM and the major deities each reveres. It is also not uncommon to see Bud-dhist and even Christian images in the temples. This syncretism is promoted in line with official government policies focused on building religious harmony in the very diverse religious community of Singapore. In 1978, the community established the Hindu Center to facilitate the transmission of Hinduism to the younger generation.The annual life of the community in Singapore is punctuated by several festivals, all of which have become public events attended by many non-Hindus. Especially notable is the annual Thaipusam festival, a Shaivite festival celebrating the birthday of Lord Subramaniam, the younger son of Lord SHIVA, which occurs toward the end of January each year. Interestingly, this festival was outlawed in India for many years because of bloody hook swinging and body piercing and Sin-gapore is one of the few places where it survives. The week-long festival culminates in an all-day procession in which young men carry a heavy structure honoring the deity from one temple to another through Singapore.Since the 1930s, the Hindu community in Singapore has witnessed impulses for reform, including resistance to BRAHMIN domination of the temples, elevation of the status of women, and the social equity of different castes.Further reading: Jean Pierre Mialaret, Hinduism in Singapore: A Guide to the Hindu Temples of Singapore (Singapore: Asia Pacific Press, 1969); Jagat K. Motwani et al., eds., Global Indian Diaspora: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (New York: Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin, 1993); K. S. Sandhu and A. Mani, eds., Indian Communities in South East Asia (Singapore: Times Academic Press, 1993); Vineeta Sinha, A New God in the Diaspora? Muneeswaran Worship in Con-temporary Singapore (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2005).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.
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