THE MARIEAMMAN TEMPLE: PRETORIA
The Marieamman Temple in Pretoria is the temple of Tamil-speaking people who came from Mauritius and South India. They began arriving in the city from the late 19th century and were settled in the Asiatic Bazaar, one of three locations that made up the Marabastad area.
In 1905, they established the Pretoria Tamil League (PTL), built a Tamil school on Cowie Street and worshipped in the Subramaniar Temple, a little tin shanty at one end of the school yard.
In the 1920’s, the PTL undertook the construction of the Marieamman Temple on a plot on 6th street next to the home of Mr. G Krishnan Pillay (Krishnanné), who took major responsibility for the project.
The temple was built over a period of twelve years, from 1928 to 1939.
The shrines were built first and as funds were accumulated other sections, such as the mandapam (open prayer hall/portico) with the balipeedam (altar) near the entrance and the kodi (flagpole), were added. The gopuram (the entrance tower or gateway) was the last to be built. G. Krishnan Pillay designed it and supervised its construction.
Major renovations and restorations were made in 1958 and from 1989 to 1999. These improvements were consecrated in Khumba Abishegam (consecration and dedication) ceremonies.
The temple is dedicated to the Supreme Being (Brahman) in the form of the Divine Mother, Marieamman (the Rain Goddess), also known as Shakthi, Devi, Durga, Kali, Parvathy and by many other names.
An image (murthi) of Marieamman is enshrined in the cella (inner sanctum) of the temple. Other murthis have been placed in mulasthana (niches) leading to the inner sanctum.
There is a mulasthanam for Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity, eldest son of Marieamman, who is invoked at the beginning of every ceremony as he is the remover of obstacles and supplication to him is necessary for a successful outcome.
In another niche are the murthis of Muruga and his two consorts, Velli and Devayanai. Muruga, God of War and second son of Marieamman, provides strength and protection. Muruga is characterised by the vel (spear) in his hand and the mayil (peacock), his vahanam (vehicle). A murthi of the peacock stands to one side of the mandapam.