The Umbilo Shree Ambalavaanar Alayam Temple situated in Cato Manor, also
known as the Second River Temple was the first public Hindu temple built on the
African continent, and has been declared a national monument. The first temple
which the Shree Ambalavaanar Alayam Temple was built to replace, was constructed
in 1875. The First River temple which faced eastwards down the slope towards the
Umbilo River, from which the temple gets its name, was destroyed in 1905 when
the river flooded.
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 is towered over by the recently constructed 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 temples 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 the most interesting and atmospheric of the eight temples of Cato Manor, and well worth a visit.
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