First & Second River Temple's

The First River Temple, built the banks of the Umbilo River, near Bayhead Durban, Natal (know known as KwaZulu Natal), in 1875, was the first Hindu Temple in Africa. It was washed away by floods in 1905 / 1906. Another temple was built on the same site, but had to make way for a new freeway that was being built in Durban. Part of the temple is still buried underneath the freeway as it was filled with sand.
The original murtis,(as images of the deities are known as), from the 1st River Temple were moved and is now housed in the Umbilo Shree Ambalavaanar Alayam Temple,(commonly reffered to as the Second River Temple), dedicated to Lord Shiva! This temple situated at 890 Bellair Road, Cato Manor , was built in 1946. The South African Heritage Council declared the Second River Temple a National Monument in 1980.
 
Any visitor is welcome to visit the Second River Temple. However, a dress code needs to be adhered to; this means that women need to wear long skirts / dresses and/or traditional attire. Shoes are not permitted within the temple!
 
It was agreed that the new temple should be rebuilt further away from the banks of the river, and the current location in Bellair Road was decided upon in 1947. The Second River temple also faces East towards the Umbilo River, however it is towered over by the recently constructed Chief Albert Luthuli Hospital. 
 
The temple houses one of the finest existing collections of religious sculpture in Durban. An interesting aspect of the sculpture is the inclusion of the Pather Family, the temple, original donors, among the sacred images. The area around the temple is dotted with various ancillary structures, which are also all richly decorated. The Umbilo Shree Ambalavaanar Alayam Temple is said to be a most interesting and atmospheric of the eight temples in the Cato Manor area, and well worth a visit.
 
In the Hindu faith, New Life comes after death! So the cremated ashes of the dead are given New Life in running water, hence the reason for being positioned so close to a river
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Last updated : 26-Sep-2017

This article was produced for South African History Online on 26-Sep-2017