This is the first temple I visited in Singapore and I still love to go there. Located in the heart of Little India, it attracts tourists -like the woman in the white hat – especially in the morning and late afternoon. The temple, open till noon and again from 4 pm every day except Tuesdays when it reopens earlier in the afternoon, attracts a lot of devotees during evening prayers. The Singapore Tourism Board’s Uniquely Singapore website, which calls it the Veeramakalimman Temple, says:
"Built as early as 1855 by Bengali labourers, this magnificent temple was constructed for the worship of Goddess Kali, the consort of Lord Shiva. Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is thought to be the first temple in Singapore to venerate her. The goddess is often portrayed as having many pairs of arms and hands; each hand carrying weapons of destruction used to fight evil on earth.
"Temple doors are covered with tiny bells. Devotees ask God to grant their requests by rining the bells before entering. Inside, the ceiling is rimmed with statues of the many Hindu Gods while the main shrine housed a jet black statue of Goddess Kali, flanked by her sons Ganesha and Murugam."
There’s one mistake there, however. The temple could not have been built by Bengali labourers. Hindu Bengalis never came to work as labourers in Singapore. The Bengalis who ventured abroad back then were more likely to be Muslims, called Lascars or Lascars, because they were usually sailors. A Lascar is mentioned in a Sherlock Holmes story: The Man with the Twisted Lip.
One possible reason why the Singapore Tourism website says the temple was built by Bengali labourers could be the Indian soldiers the British brought with them to Singapore could have come from the Bengal Army. There was the Bengal Army, the Bombay Army and the Madras Army when India was ruled by the East India Company, which also colonised Singapore. And the Bengal Army was not filled by Bengalis but Hindi-speaking recruits from neighbouring provinces. The Hindus among them resented being sent abroad because they became outcastes if they sailed overseas. The Muslim soldiers had their own grievances.
The soldiers rebelled in 1857 — two years after this temple was built — in what’s called the Sepoy Mutiny or the Indian Rebellion of 1857. That put an end to East India Company rule.
Queen Victoria then became Empress of India. Queen Victoria, whose great-great-granddaughter "Lillibet" just ended a three-day State visit to Singapore yesterday.