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Declared a national monument in 1980, this South Indian temple from 1875, is believed to be the the first public Hindu temple in South Africa.

It is a quiet and peaceful place. What you see was rebuilt on higher land in 1947 to replace the original structure which was destroyed by flooding. It overlooks a fire walking pit. The deities were crafted by sculptors from India and are magnificent. Shiva (Nataraja), Draupadi and Mariamman can be seen across 3 temples in the complex. The impression of horizontal stratification, required for South Indian temples, was achieved by using two different types of face-brick.

The temple usually has a priest who is very willing to assist visitors. Ask for his assistance in touring the site to gain an understanding of the deities, rituals and practices of the Indians who immigrated to South Africa in the 1800s.  The grounds have hens, ducks, rabbits, peacocks and a cow.

Female visitors should cover their lower body if necessary and cloth is available to borrow to do this. There are boxes for donations to assist with maintaining the temple.

Background:

In 1860, indentured labourers from India were introduced to the British colony of Natal to work in the sugarcane industry. They were followed by waves of immigrants from the subcontinent, eventually forming the largest Indian community outside of India. This has left a rich legacy of Indian culture including more than 40 Hindu temples. We suggest that you visit those we have listed to gain an understanding of this wonderful and very old culture.

Hinduism was born thousands of years ago along the banks of India’s Indus River. Also known as ‘the eternal religion’, it comprises a blend of various intellectual and philosophical perspectives, rather than a common set of rigid beliefs. It is the world’s third largest religion and also the oldest living religion.The theology consists largely of interwoven layers of ideas originating from the indigenous Dravidians and subsequent Aryan invaders who came from over the Himalayas. This dual cultural origin has resulted in two distinct styles of Hindu temples, both of which are represented in this brochure. Within these two styles, a large degree of variation is evident.Due to the wide variety of Hindu traditions, tolerance towards different systems of belief and practice are notable features of Hinduism, a fact which is reflected in the diversity of temple design.

Hindu Symbols. Although there is one Absolute God in Hinduism, the theology has evolved a hierarchy of consorts and vehicles through which the supreme being communicates. These deities are in turn accompanied by a variety of symbols. Every element of a Hindu temple is symbolic. Fire is the carrier of all sacrifices. The bell represents divine awakening. The conch shell, creation. The beads, a spiritual journey. The nail shoes, penitence. The lion symbolises power. The bull, strength and tenderness, and so on. A Shiva temple is denoted by Nandi, the bull on whose back Shiva rides, while the presence of the eagle-like Garuda denotes a Vishnu Temple.                                  From Architecture, Durban

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