Things To Do in PietermaritzburgShri Vishnu Temple
Where? Langalibalele Street, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal
How much? Price on request
At the lower end of Langalibalele (Longmarket) Street, the Vishnu Temple is one of three Hindu temples found fairly close together. It is well over 100 years old and caters for the Hindi-speaking Hindus who follow Vishnu.
A less ornate temple than the Siva Soobramoniar and Marriaman temples across the road from it, this free-standing temple is a typical North Indian temple, today painted a delicate light blue with a plain central dome above its shrine room, and an arched veranda that allows its devotees to circle it.
It is at once beautiful and elegant, unaffected by any of the ornateness of the temple and shrine opposite. Interestingly, the mould for the dome was made with mealie stalks and bamboo. These domes and arches are very similar in form to the Moslem Soofie Mosque on the edge of Langalibalele Street, where it meets Masukwana Street.
This part of Pietermaritzburg is considered one of the most vividly Indian areas in Natal, historically the residence of many ex-indentured Hindu families who took up residence here during the late 1870s in buildings erected by the Natal Land and Colonisation Company. Most of these buildings have been destroyed.
Across the road from these homes a religious 'compound' appeared containing a wood and iron temple called the Mariaman Temple, followed by the Shree Subrahmanya Temple, both South Indian temples and much more ornate and colourful than the northern temple.
Indians settled here as market gardeners, hawkers and employees of the colonial government.
A feature of the Shri Vishnu Temple are the marble images in the shrine room of the major deities worshipped by the northern tradition – the god Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi (the goddess of good fortune) and Vishnu's two most important human incarnations – Rama and Krishna.
Not only is this quadrant of varying Indian religious architecture – a Soofie Mosque, and three Hindu temples in very close proximity - but just a couple of blocks away, on Langalibalele Street, is St Paul's Anglican Church.