Established in 1905, the temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Pretoria. The temple gets its name from Mariammen, the goddess that controls smallpox and other infectious diseases. The Temple was declared a National Monument under old NMC legislation on 10 September 1982.
This is the most impressive Gopuram among Hindu buildings in South Africa, (A Gopuram or Gopura or Vimanam, is a monumental tower, usually ornate, at the entrance of a temple, especially in Southern India. This is a prominent feature of Hindu temple architecture!) The Tamil Society of Pretoria replaced an early wood-and-iron structure with a small cella and an assembly hall in 1927. 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. Shrines inside the temple are to Mariamman! A new Navakaragam of the nine deities was constructed against the Northern site wall.
Restoration work undertaken by Gordon Verhoef & Krause in 2011, 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.
[Mikula P, Kearney B and Harber R, 1982. Traditional Hindu Temples. Durban: Hindu Temple Publications. pp, 106-7.] expanded by Schalk LE ROUX.
Finesse - A Newsletter published by Gordon Verhoef & Krause, November 2011.
Places of Worship in South Africa. Halfway House: Southern Book Publishers. pg 151-153