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Mariamman Temple
Marabastad, Pretoria, Gauteng


Client:Tamil Society of Pretoria


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25°44'27.37" S 28°10'34.42" E Alt: 1303m

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This is the most impressive Gopuram among Hindu buildings in South Africa. The Tamil Society of Pretoria replaced an early (C1914) wood-and-iron structure with a small cella and an assembly hall in 1927 designed by P GOVENDER and G KRISHNAN or KRISHNAN on his own. The cella is extremely interesting in its lower development, with a strong vertical accentuation but is capped with a disappointing and extremely flat dome. Some years later the characteristic Southern Indian Gopuram was built by Parasuraman GOVENDER and Krishna. Besides forming the main entrance to the grounds of the temple, it becomes a temple in itself, complete with two cellas and seven kalasas which surmount the tower and thus sanctify the structure, while Ganesa trumpets from the corners. The Gopuram is made up of layer upon layer of horizontal tiers in true Dravidian style and one which closely follows the Silpa Sastras. The plain boundary wall leads to the heavy, timber doors. Here the wall is 'carved' in deep relief. Rhythmic sets of columns enclose and capture spaces behind; these give way at the central axis of each side to projected layers of thematic niches. The final tier is lifted by means of shorter columns spatially-open, providing a deep contrast to the base. The columns and most of the other elements applied were standard concrete precast units of the time, still being made by the original manufacturer, Olde World Concrete, are the same as in the verandas of old Pretoria mansions on the other side of the city. Shrines inside the temple proper are to Mariamman, a manifestation of Parvati (shakti) and consort of Shiva, central; Subrahmanya, north, and Ganesa, south. A new Navakaragam of the nine deities was constructed against the northern site wall.

From [Mikula P, Kearney B and Harber R, 1982. Traditional Hindu Temples. Durban: Hindu Temple Publications. pp, 106-7.] expanded by Schalk LE ROUX.


Restoration work undertaken by Gordon Verhoef & Krause included external redecoration, plaster and concrete repairs to structural elements and the seven ornamental vases on the roof following lightning damage. Due to the many ornate elements on the exterior facades of the temple, special care was taken whilst erecting and dismantling access scaffolding. The variety of colours in the design were carefully matched and coordinated to maintain the original colour scheme. Specialist plasterers and artisans were used to piece together splinters of decorative mouldings damaged by lightning. Many of the original decorative elements and salvaged pieces were re-used in the repair works.

Ref: Finesse - A Newsletter published by Gordon Verhoef & Krause, November 2011.

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

Writings about this entry

Mikula, P, Kearney, B & Harber, R. 1982. Traditional Hindu Temples in South Africa. Durban: Hindu Temple Publications. pg 106-107
Oxley, John. 1992. Places of Worship in South Africa. Halfway House: Southern Book Publishers. pg 151-153