In 1962, on the eve of Pongal (harvest festival) Mr. P. Karupiah, a worker in the British Royal Navy Dockyard, had a momentous dream. In his dream, he saw a vivid image of Lord Murugan and a majestic golden cobra (Rajanagam), seated below a particular Elanthamaram in the swampy mangrove area west of Canberra Road. Inspired by this divine vision, on the auspicious day of Pongal, Mr. P. Karupiah went to the Elanthamaram and constructed a very simple altar at the base of the tree. Significantly, the tree had six main branches symbolizing its link to Lord Murugan, also known as Arumugam or Shanmukha.
On his makeshift altar, Mr Karupiah placed pictures of the deities Vinayager, Ambal, Lord Shiva, Lord Murugan and a large “Vel” (divine spear). From that day forth, he began daily prayers at this symbolic site. Over a very short period of time, what began as a single individual’s act of devotion grew into something far more significant. Word of the simple altar and the fact that daily evening prayers were being conducted there spread amongst the Hindu workers in the Royal Navy Dockyard. Many of them lived in the quarters provided by the British and their homes were within walking distance of the temple. Not surprisingly, they soon flocked to the temple. These were the humble pioneers of the Holy Tree Sri Balasubramaniar Temple.