The Darma Muneeswaran Temple at Serangoon North Avenue 1 has been in existence at its current site for more than one hundred years.
It was started as a simple shrine under a Bodhi tree, sometime around 1900. A community of about 30 Indian families residing in the vicinity, mostly involved in cattle-rearing activities, probably erected the shrine to protect themselves. It was and is still common practice for a Muneeswaran deity to be installed as a guardian at the entrance to an estate village. Then, the shrine comprised only a flat, semi-spherical granite stone with inscriptions, and a Trident placed under a tree. While the Trident remains in its original site at the Bodhi tree, the granite stone is now embedded below Lord Darma Muneeswaran in the current temple complex.
Sometime around 1930s, many living in the Kampong Hwi Yoh area claimed that they experienced visions of Lord Darma Muneeswaran.
Thus, the late Pitchai Pillai and the Allagappan Konnar, together with other prominent Indian leaders of Sembawang Rubber Estate decided to erect an improved shrine for Lord Darma Muneeswaran.
In 1969, the Hindus who maintained the Temple made further improvements and installed additional deities, namely Sri Mariamman, Sri Vinayagar, Sri Murugan, Sri Nagar and Sri Bairavar. They also erected a temporary shed to house each deity. Lord Darma Muneeswaran was made out of concrete and installed under the Bodhi tree. Sri Mariamman’s sanctum was installed between Sri Vinayagar’s and Sri Murugan’s and this orientation is still retained in the current temple complex.
In 1980, the temple was officially registered as the Darma Muneeswaran Temple Society. With the assistance of Dr. Lau Teik Soon, the Member of Parliament for Serangoon Gardens and also Adviser to the temple, the temple was granted a Temporary Occupation Licence (TOL) backdated to 1 May 1955. The Temple’s congregation, by then, had grown to include regular devotees from Serangoon Gardens, Serangoon North, Serangoon Central, Ang Mo Kio, Hougang, Yio Chu Kang, Paya Lebar and Seletar Hills. Back then, the temple’s focus was on providing religious services to its devotees. However, by the end of that decade, it became evident that the Temple’s facilities were grossly inadequate to meet the growing needs of an expanding congregation.
Thus, on 23 Sep 1989, the members of Darma Muneeswaran Temple Society unanimously agreed to build a new temple complex at their Annual General Meeting. This new complex was to house the deities in proper sanctums and provide additional facilities for the devotees to meet not just their religious but also their cultural, educational, social and welfare needs. In June 1992, with the support of Dr. Lau Teik Soon, the temple initiated the process of procuring its existing TOL site and the adjoining piece of land. Concurrently, the temple embarked on drawing up plans for a new building, as well as raising funds to finance the project. After a three-year process, the temple management procured the site in 1995 on a 30-year lease.
In late 1996, plans for the new building were submitted to the authorities. Care was taken to ensure that the new temple complex met Hindu architectural requirements while retaining the Bodhi tree, an emblem of the Temple’s historical roots. This was to be done in a modern and sophisticated manner and had to blend naturally with its surrounding environment. Approval for the new building was obtained in mid-1998.
With the deities moved to a temporary structure during the Balasthaapanam ceremony from 12 to 14 September 1997, the ground-breaking ceremony was held on 1 May 1998, graced by Mr S Iswaran, then Member of Parliament for West Coast GRC. The construction of the $3.5 million new temple complex began on 11 May 1998, and the Maha Kumbhabishegam was held on 11 June 2000 to consecrate the building and all its deities. The sculptural works at the temple were led by the renowned Mr S Nagarajan Sthapathiyar from Devakottai, while the consecration ceremony was led by Vikas Ratna Dr K Pitchai Gurukkal from Pillaiyarpatti. The ceremony was graced by Mr Matthias Yao Chih, then Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office.
Upon its official consecration, one of the first things Darma Muneeswaran Temple did was to firmly establish itself as not just a place of worship, but also as an active member of the community. The temple was steadfast in its desire to give back to the community which had generously donated for the building of the new temple.
One of its key initiatives was the offering of bursaries to needy primary and secondary school students, across ethnic and religious boundaries. Since 2003, Drama Muneeswaran Temple has given out bursaries in excess of $500,000, benefitting about 1,600 students. Bursaries serve a useful purpose, but the temple strongly believed that it was equally important to acknowledge and showcase those who excelled as that they could be an inspiration and role model to others.This brought about the birth of the 'Munneru!' program. In addition, the temple was also mindful of having a broad-based approach to defining success. In addition to bursaries, the temple introduced academic and sports excellence awards in 2010.
The temple till the current day continues to assist the community. The temple serves from the youth to the aged. Every year, the temple encourages students to apply for the bursaries. These serve and motivate future generations in our community. Through the 'Munneru!' program, the temple has established itself as a support function to further develop and motivate the student through enrichment classes. The temple also actively supports social and community events to give back to the society.
Since a significant number of participants attend performing arts-related programmes, the temple has set up a dedicated Drama, Music and Dance Academy in 2010 to inject greater professionalism in the teaching and learning of arts. This academy is now now well-known as DMT Music and Dance Academy.
Several thousand devotees visit Darma Muneeswaran Temple every week, and the numbers peak during periods of special poojas and festivals. In addition, more than 800 people, both young and old, participate in the non-religious activities weekly.
As the temple complex approached the end of its first 12-year cycle, Darma Muneeswaran Temple decided to upgrade it with new features, sculptures and an additional basement to meet the growing religious and secular needs of its devotees. These additions and alterations costed an estimated $2 million which was finalised in May 2012.
The ground-breaking ceremony for the new basement was held on 3 June 2012, and the Balasthaapanam for Rajagopuram and Vimaanams, including all deities were done in stages on 8 July 2012 and 9 Dec 2012 respectively. This was done in tandem with the progress of the additions and alterations done on the existing complex. The upgrading works were completed in time for its re-consecration also known as second Maha Kumbhabishegam on 1 May 2013.
The second Maha Kumbhabishegam evokes a sense of déjà vu in its devotees. This took place exactly 15 years after the first ground-breaking ceremony which was held on 1 May 1998. The second Maha Kumbhabishegam was graced by Mr S Ishwaran, Minister in Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Homes Affairs and Trade and Industry, who also graced the first ground-breaking ceremony. Once again, the sculpture works were led by Mr S Nagarajan Sthapathiyar while the re-consecration was led by Vikas Ratna Dr K Pitchai Gurukkal.
The upgrading of the temple complex and its consecration ceremonies would not have been possible if not for the vision and efforts of the Management Committee, Fundraising Committee, Darma Muneeswaran Thondaragal, other volunteers and its benevolent devotees and well-wishers,
Keeping this in mind, Darma Muneeswaran Temple is committed to provide a divine experience to one and all.