Mariamman Hindu Temple in Ho Chi Minh City (Chùa Bà Ấn) is one of the most spiritual and holy places in Saigon and entire Vietnam. The temple is reputed to have miraculous powers. It has a unique interior and exterior design and a city center location.
So that not only Indian but also local people and visitors come to the pagoda, escape from the crowded and noisy places of the hustle and bustle city, admire the stunning architecture, learn more about Mariamman and how she is worshiped, pray for health, prosperity, etc. The temple represents the diverse culture of Saigon where there are many groups and nations living and establishing sacred pagodas, temples and churches for over 300 years.
General information about Mariamman Hindu Temple
Location: 45 Truong Dinh Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. CLICK HERE to see the location of the temple on Google Maps. Mariamman Hindu Temple is only 140 m West of Ben Thanh Market so visitors can reach it easily from central districts of the city.
Opening hours: 7:00 – 12:00; 13:00 – 19:00; On Friday, 1st and 15th days of the lunar month: 7:00 – 19:00.
Time of sacrifice: 10:00.
The Indian came to Saigon
Indian people arrived in Saigon 120 years ago and built some pagodas and temples. The French colonials brought Tamils in Pondicherry and Karikal colonies to Saigon. The poor workers gathered in an area next to Ben Thanh Market. Later the Tamils from the Chettiar community (Nagartar) came to Vietnam for money lending business. They worked in different fields including real estate, finance, textile.
The construction of Indian Temples in Saigon
Indian people in Saigon built Subramamam Temple at 98 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street and Sri Thenday Yutthapani Temple at 66 Ton That Hiep Street in Ben Nghe Ward, and Mariamman Temple in Ben Thanh Ward.
According to the remaining documents, Indian built a small house at the current position of Mariamman Temple. Indian people lived and did their business around this place. The house functioned as a place of worship until the end of the 19th century.
In 1885, donations made by Tamil people from Pondicherry in Saigon were to build Mariamman Hindu Temple with a raja gopuram, using Indian craftsmen, builders and sculptors.
In 1950, the temple was rebuilt, this is the model structure nowadays.
After Independence Day (1975)
After the Independence Day, the new government let the People Committee of District 1 appoint the Board to manage the Mariamman Hindu Temple in Ho Chi Minh City.
Mariamman and stories
The main deity of Mariamman Hindu Temple in Ho Chi Minh City is Goddess Mariamman. In Hinduism in South India, Mariamman is the Goddess of sickness and rain, living in the countryside of Tamil State. She is associated with productive land, favorable rains and wind. She is known as a beautiful young woman with a red-hued face, wearing a red dress. The Goddess has many hands that represent many types of power. Her popular gestures and positions are standing and sitting. She holds a trident and a bowl of rice.
Every year, people come to her, pray for health, not getting sick, especially measles and chickenpox. In the past, there was no varicella vaccine protecting against measles and chickenpox. They also ask Mariamman for marriage and childbirth.
Mariamman is the embody of Shiva – one of the principal deities of Hinduism. While Shiva is the favorite God of middle and upper classes, Mariamman is worshiped by poor people including farmers in the countryside.
Mariamman is another aspect of Parvathy, known as the mother of the universe. Parvathy is amma and prayed as Amman. Utsapa Amman is placed next to the main deity.
Mariamman is worshiped not only in India, especially Singapore. In Ho Chi Minh City, the Goddess is worshiped in Mariamman Hindu Temple.
Facade and Raja gopuram
The Facade of Mariamman Hindu Temple in Ho Chi Minh City is painted orange and red. The building has two floors in which the Main Hall and the place of worship are located. The building has two entrances facing Truong Dinh Street. The left entrance is narrower and lower than the other. The 12 m high Raja gopuram above the right entrance catches passengers and visitors’ eyes thanks to statues of Amman, Luxshimi, Ganesha, Muruga, angels, dancing girls and impressive figurines of lions, lotus decorations in various colors.
The statue of Mariamman on the left (and right) represents a plump woman sitting in the middle of two yellow lions, holding a trident. She wears a blue top and pink bottoms with floral patterns and looks powerful.
Parallel sentences on the facade include:
- “Kim Thanh Vang Dội Tống Họa Tài, Diệp Tuyên Dương Nghìn Phúc Lộc” praises Goddess Mariamman
- “Điều Giả Không Bao Giờ Tồn Tại. Điều Thật Không Bao Giờ Hủy Hoại” means “The fake (or lie) never exists. The truth never destroys”.
Ground floor and interior design
Entering the temple, visitors feel like being in a totally different world from the crowded city and Truong Dinh Street. The ground floor is supported by square stone pillars with decorations in Indian style on the top. The brown round flowers with light bulbs make the ceiling impressive. Ceiling borders are decorated with Naga snakeheads, statues of Goddesses and animals such as elephants. One of the attractions in the temple is the presence of a number of colorfully painted vahanas for utsava murthis. All represent characteristics of ancient Indian architecture.
Beautiful decorations between pillars or pillars and walls are painted with floral patterns. In Vietnam, they are called “Bao lam” which are usually made by carving wood. “Bao lam” in the temple is simpler and colorful but it shows that the design was inspired by Vietnamese traditional architecture. Furthermore, the shutters of windows in the temple are similar to window shutters on Vietnamese houses.
On the ground floor, the small shrine where Mariamman is worshiped is located in the center. On two sides of the Mariamma shrine are two shrines where Uncle or Pechiamman (right) and Aunt or Maduraiveeran (left) are worshiped. Three shrines are called Middle Hall or Main Hall.
On the walls there are many documents about Hinduism, Gods and Goddesses, information about the temple, regulations. Highlights of the ground floor include 18 statues of Amman in her different forms as well as other deities. The area around the shrines are called Outer Hall including front outer hall, back outer hall, left and right outer hall. Mount Meru, statues of Deities are in the back outer hall; reading places and the office are in the left outer hall. Place of worship Siddharta Gautama and Ganesha, a lion with a red coat are in the front outer hall.
In the shrine in the middle of Main Hall is a figurine of Mariamman in black, wearing colorful outfit and accessories such as pomelo blossom necklaces, blossom garlands. In front of the figurine of Mariamman are two lingas representing male power and yoni representing the female power of Nature. The space in front of her are placed two glass boxes containing statues of two deities.
There are fences around the shrine and the holy area in front of the shrine. In front of the fence is the place for visitors to sit on their knees, bow down, put their offerings on tables.
On the roof of the shrine there are figurines of Ganesha, Mariamman, Siddharta Gautama, two deities on two sides, lions, peacocks, dogs, elephants above the shrine of Mariamman in the Main Hall. Mariamman has four hands and holds a trident, knife, rice of bowl and a drum with a cobra wrapping around it.
Maduraiveeran Shrine (Đền Thờ Cô, Aunt Shrine)
In the Maduraiveeran Shrine, Maduraiveeran is worshiped. The black statue of Maduraiveeran is decorated with lots of flower garlands and beautiful outfits. On top of the shrine is some figurines of Maduraiveeran, two lions and other deities.
Pechiamman Shrine (Đền Thờ Cậu, Uncle Shrine)
In the shrine is worshiped black Pechiamman wearing a crown, flower necklaces and garlands. On the top of the shrine, are figurines of Pechiamman, two horses and two other deities.
Front outer hall
At the front outer hall, Goddess Amman’s sons Ganesha and Muruga are on her right and left, respectively. In the old days, the Lion (Simma Vahanam) to the left of the entrance used to be carried around Saigon in a street procession every 6th October – the festival of Mariamman Hindu Temple.
18 Gods and Goddesses on the Wall
On the left, back and right walls, there are 18 statues of Amman in her different forms as well as other deities. The 18 statues represent 18 wishes of humans. They include Kaliyamman, Birman, Birmasakthi, Samundi, Bhuvaneswari, Tirumagal, Mageswari, Indiradurgai, Meenakshi, Mahavishnu, Andal, Valambigai, Kanniiga Paramiswari, Kamatchiamman, Parvathi and Murugan, Paramasivam, Nadarajar.
Back Outer Hall
In the back outer hall is placed the Mount Meru which is a sacred mountain with five peaks in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology and considered to be the center of all metaphysical, physical and spiritual universes.
Statues in front of the back wall
In the back outer hall, there are not only Mount Meru but the statues of Ganesha, Vishnu, Brahman, Linga – Yoni, the couple Krishna and Radha.
Right Outer Hall
On the right outer hall, they place glass containers containing books, tables and chairs where visitors can sit and read books.
Office of Mariamman Hindu Temple in Ho Chi Minh City
The Office of Mariamman Hindu Temple in Ho Chi Minh City is located on the ground floor. There is no Hindu or Tamil priest in the temple. The caretakers – a Management Board appointed by the Vietnamese authorities are responsible for the temple. Two of the members of the board are ethnic – Khmer assistants who act as priests in chanting slokas and performing Arathi (originated Theravada – the Southern Buddhism).
There is no official financial support to the temple. All the expenses and charity activities are from the till collection. Accepting money directly from the devotees is against the regulations of the temple. The devotees receive vibuthi and prasadam. The devotees make donation into charity boxes. Since the Indian population is not large enough, most of the devotees are Vietnamese, Chinese and others.
At 10:00 AM daily, a solemn sacrifice is held for the purpose of looking her help in controlling the weather. The old bell hung on the wall to the left of the main entrance is rung during the sacrifice.
Every day, visitors come to the temple pray and ask for happiness, health, prosperity. Devotees usually offer the Gods and Goddesses flowers such as lilies, gladiolus, jasmine garlands, incenses, oil, rice, sticky rice, salt, sugar, instant noodles, dried mung beans, coconuts, joss stickers, etc. Some visitors face the wall to show their belief and respect to the Goddesses while praying for something. Many visitors remove their shoes before entering the temples to maintain the purity of the temple.
Mariamman Hindu Temple in Ho Chi Minh City have organized countless charity activities including distributing foods to poor people.