The Only Burmese Temple Outside Myanmar

Address: 14 Tai Gin Road

Opening Hours: 6.30am - 9pm daily

Entrance to the Temple (Taken 26 Dec 2010)

Temple History

Maha Sasana Ramsi Burmese Temple was initally located at 17 Kinta Road and was founded by U Thar Hnin in 1875. In the hope of spreading Buddhism to Singapore, U Kyaw Gaung, a Burmese traditional physician, selected and transported a huge piece of rock to Mandalay, where the statue of the Buddha was carved by skilled craftsmen there. Without the help of modern transportation technology, Kyaw Gaung persevered through the two-and-a-half year journey to move this magnificent statue to Singapore. Made of pure white marble, this structure is the largest statue of the Buddha outside Myanmar, weighing 10 tonnes and standing at 11 feet. 

The temple moved to 14 Tai Gin Road in 3 May 1988, due to a resettlement programme by the Singapore government. This was followed by the relocation of the statue to the new premise in 1990, after the erection of the temple. The temple finally reopened on 29 December 1991. Being the only Burmese Buddhist temple outside Myanmar with its architecture built in authentic Burmese design, the temple is a grand tourist attraction.

Statue of the Buddha (taken 26 December 2010)
Running of the Temple

The four-storey, 8000 square feet temple, practises Theravada Buddhism. It is currently run by the Chief Monk, Venerable U Pannya Vamsa, assisted by four official resident monks, who are in-charge of the spiritual development of the devotees. There are also visiting monks from Burma and Thailand which can go up to 15, especially during festive occasions. A team of dedicated laymen form a committee, made up of an equal number of Singaporeans and Burmese, helps in the day-to-day running of the temple. 

Devotees comprise Burmese, Singaporean and other nationalities. To the Burmese devotees, this temple is not just a place of worship but also for social gatherings. They make offerings to the monks, and also ask them for blessing and advice. Staunch devotees celebrate birthdays and marriages here, seeking blessings from the monks. 

Besides daily activities of Pali chanting and prayers, the monks here also visit their devotees to perform blessing ceremonies in new homes and even visit hospitals to bless sick devotees or their loved ones with good health.  

The temple conducts many interesting activities, for all age groups, from chanting and meditation classes to Dharma (Buddhist teaching) talks. There are Dharma classes for children on Sundays, as they believe children should be exposed to the Buddha’s teachings at a young age.

Locations in the Temple

On the top floor of the temple, there is a small prayer room, where monks confess their misdoings to their seniors and plead for forgiveness. It is also a habitual practice for devotees to walk along the pathway of this room three times in a clockwise direction. 

The third and second floors of the temple provide a quiet ambience for devotees to sit close to the Buddha to pray and meditate. Beautiful murals of the Buddha decorate the walls of the third storey. 

A counter selling souvenirs and prayer items sits at one corner of the main hall on the ground floor. The money collected aids in the running of the temple. Along the two aisles, there are built-in cabinets where chanting scripts and Buddhist-related books are readily available for distribution. Donation boxes are found all over the temple. As one enters through the main door, the grand white marble statue of the Buddha sits regally, exuding an ambience of peace and serenity, as if welcoming one to the world of Buddhism. 

The basement houses a library where devotees can learn more about the Buddha’s teachings from a wide array of books.

Titbit Corner...

There is a rich Burmese presence in the entire estate of Balestier, as suggested by the names of the roads which are actually places and road names found in then Burma. Examples would be Mandalay, Irrawaddy, Shan, Prome and Rangoon. Mr Tan, the temple’s newsletter editor, feels that this was largely contributed by the sizeable Burmese community living in the Kandang Kerbau area near Balestier. This was in the 1920s, when the region was commencing development and roads were being established. As a result of the strong Burmese presence here, the names were derived from Burmese towns, ports and rivers.

In the 19th century, both Burma and Singapore were British colonies, so many commuted between the two nations, mostly by ship. However, until 1980, there were very few Burmese residents living in Singapore – with only close to 130 families. It was not only until 2006, where there was a notable increase. Currently, there are approximately 100 000 Burmese residing in Singapore. 

Burmese, mostly in the skilled labour force, take up jobs such as civil engineers (more than 3000), geologists (more than 300), and also in the marine trade and construction industry. In the unskilled labour force, there are Burmese girls who come to Singapore to work as domestic helpers. There is also at least a Burmese citizen working in each Singapore hotel. Burmese children are also known to come to Singapore for studies, after the 1990s when the Temasek Polytechnic opened up scholarships for Burmese students.