The Sri Mahamariamman Temple
When I was in Kuala Lumpur a few months ago and visited the oldest Hindu Temple in Malaysia, the Sri Mahamariamman temple.
GOING TO CHINATOWN
I had an afternoon to spare one day, and figured I’d wander down to China town. It was a hot day, and there were road works around. It wasn’t a pleasant walk, and it got a bit too much for me after a while. Unlike other western cities, there were Chinese writing all over KL, so I wasn’t sure which area is part of China town and which isn’t. I’m not sure if I ever made it near to the center of China town. Anyway, I did walk past a food stall that looked as though it would serve nice authentic Chinese Malaysian food.
As I turned into a road, I stumbled across a building that looked really stunning from the outside. It was snuck into between two buildings that looked like a temple. This particular building was taller than its neighbours and the front facade was adorned with many intricate carvings. I was intrigued to find out more about it and when it said free entrance I decided to go in ~ yup, that’s the cheapskate in me!
THE SRI MAHAMARIAMMAN TEMPLE
This is the Sri Mahamariamman temple. Let me quickly give you a 30 second overview of it. The temple was founded in 1873 by the Tamils from south of India who came to Malaysia to work as labourers. This current structure was re-built in 1968, and the tower at the front, called the gopurum, was built in 1972. The Sri Mahamariamman temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia and said to be the richest in the country. Done!
You have to remove your shoes to enter the Sri Mahamariamman temple. That includes walking around the outside concrete area and the covered area with shiny tiles. Now I’m a bit of a hygiene freak and don’t like walking around in bare foot. That’s why I never wear sandals when I go out. Anyway, I reluctantly removed my shoes and tip toed in slowly. I tried not to step on the ground too much, and really wished I could float in mid air. Perhaps the god in the temple would grant me my wish…
Before we go inside the Sri Mahamariamman temple, let’s take a look at the gopuram first. That was what caught my eye in the first place. The gopuram is the tower above the entrance of the temple. It is 23 meter / 75ft tall and is adorned with 228 colourful Hindu gods. They were sculptured by many artists from India, and is the most remarkable feature of the temple. Do take a look at the intricate carvings before you read on.
They say the gopuram is the demarcation between the spiritual and materialistic world. In a way that’s true. The road outside the temple is quite busy. Buses drive by right in front of the gopuram, and there are high rise buildings towering over nearby.
In my case, after I stepped inside I was quite consumed with having to walk around bare foot and blocked out everything else. Maybe that helped to shift my mentality and to focus on my inner self. It’s funny what religious places does to you.
MAIN PRAYER HALL
The main part of the temple is the massive prayer room. It’s a covered room that is open on all sides, and supported by beautifully decorated pillars. The three shrines of the temple can be found in the centre. There are lovely intricate designs further up on the ceiling . I expect they have some special meaning about Hinduism. But I since I know nothing about religion, let along Hinduism, I won’t even try to be an expert here and explain it to you. Let’s just focus on its beauty, shall we?
The main shrine of the temple is guarded by two goddess outside. The staff opened the door of the main shrine while I was there. Of course at that time, I didn’t know that this was the inner sanctum.
The Sri Mahamariamman temple is named after the Hindu deity Mariamman. I assume that would be her you see though the open doors. Mariamman is the southern Indian goddess also known as Parvati. She is popular with the Tamils. This makes sense since this temple was founded by Tamils.
There are many beautiful coloured sculptures all around the temple. I have to admit, I haven’t been to many Hindu temples so this was all very new to me. It was very interesting to see the different gods and goddess from one single religion and wonder who or what they represent. Does those with two heads have special powers? Why are some topless, other fully clothed? Why are some the gods and goddess blue, and green? If Ganesh, the elephant headed deity is so sacred, why does he/she (?) not appear more often? Questions and questions.
There were quite a few people sitting around inside the temple. Perhaps they’re musing over the same questions? Or maybe they have questions of their own? What do you think about when you visit a church or a temple?