Mangala Vihara, or the Shrine of Blessings, was founded by the late Tripitakacarya Sri Saddharma Vagisvara Upsddhayaya M M Mahaweera Maha Nayaka Thero and built on its current location which was donated by the late Madam Chew Quee Neo in 1959. A 2-storey building was completed in March 1960. The Shrine Hall occupied most of the ground floor with the kitchen, Honorary Treasurer’s and Honorary Secretary’s rooms. The second level consisted of a lecture-cum-library hall and the Sangha (Monks) quarters. The Singapore Buddhist Pali Society, which our devotees was registered as members, was the brainchild of our late founder.
Upon the completion of the building, our late founder planted the sapling of the Maha Bodhi tree from Anuradhapura (the ancient city of Sri Lanka), given to him by the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. Since the planting of the Maha Bodhi sapling, many Buddhists have come to venerate the tree and it has since grown into a huge, healthy tree.
Mangala Vihara was originally surrounded by attap houses but these house had to be removed to make way for our various expanding activities. The vihara (temple) was not located on a secluded spot as a quiet place for meditation. Instead, it was centrally located, busy like a bee-hive, producing the sweet honey of Dhamma (Buddhist Teachings).
With our late founder’s foresight on the benefits on education, he set up the Sunday Dhamma School (SDS) in 1960. The SDS used the syllabi set by the Young Men’s Buddhist Association (YMBA) of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Our late founder was himself the Dhamma School’s first teacher. By 1960, our late founder was running 5 classes with the help to 2 teachers, late Mr. B Austin and late Mdm. Mary Lian. In 1961, at our first YMBA examinations, our SDS won the Sadhuwardhana Challenge Shield. The Shield is given to Dhamma schools with the highest percentage of passes internationally. Ever since our inaugural winning of the Shield, we have been awarded the Shield continually and a replica of the Shield resides in our temple. In 1982, a 3-storey annex was built to cater the rapidly expanding Sunday Dhamma Classes (SDC).
When Mangala Vihara began, it did not have a Chapter House (or Sima House), which did not make Mangala Vihara a full-fledged Theravada temple. A Chapter House is a place for the Acts of Sangha (e.g. ordination ceremonies). In 1966, the foundation stones were laid for the construction of the Chapter House in the Consecration ceremony headed by Venerable K Sri Dhammananda Maha Nayaka Thero, Chief Monk of the Federation of Malaysia. This ceremony was witnessed by a large congregation of both members and devotees.
The opening of the Chapter House coincided with Kathina in November 1966. It was also on this day that Venerable P Pemaratana Maha Thero from Thailand, and Mr. and Mrs. Fong Peck Yew & family unveiled the Buddha’s footprint from Thailand. The Buddha’s footprint is on display in the Shrine Hall, beside the altar.
In 1982, plans for a 3-storey building extension was approved. Before construction began, there was a ceremony to remove that foundation stones that support the sacred Chapter House. However, the Chapter House was re-consecrated on the top floor of the new building and was witnessed by many members and devotees.
10 years passed before the Management Committee of Mangala Vihara and our late founder began plans for the construction of our current Shrine Hall on account that the previous one was too small to accommodate the congregation on festival days. Hence, the Management Committee began holding fund raising exercises for the new Shrine Hall.
In 1991, the piling ceremony was held. In 1993, halfway through the construction, the marble Buddha Image was transferred by crane onto the pedestal where it currently sits. The construction was completed in 1993 and our founder commissioned an artist to paint murals on the walls and ceiling. Our Shrine Hall was officially opened by Dr. Wee Kim Wee, our former President of the Republic of Singapore, on the 11 July 1999. A replica of the original Sanchi Gate in India was also built at the entrance and was opened by His Excellency, Mr, Nirmal Wijayaratne, Sri Lankan High Commissioner in 1999.
The Buddhist and Pali College started in September 1993, after several Buddhist Societies approached our late founder with proposals. Our Management Committee applied to the Ministry of Education (MOE) for a license for the College. After many interviews, the MOE exempted the College from the Education Act for being a religious school. Having being granted the license, our founder immediately applied to the Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka for an affiliation status. The status was given in 1994 after a visit of one of their Professors.