Founded in 1873, this intensely hued and elaborately designed Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur is the oldest and bruited to be the wealthiest in Malaysia. It is also the most famous among avid worshippers and intrigued tourists. Mariamman, Tamil for Mother Mari, is the South Indian mother goddess whose worship chiefly centers on delivering rains and healing diseases. Mariamman’s modest but brightly colored shrine is behind the complex. On the left rests the elephant-headed god of wisdom and learning Ganesh’s shrine. On the right is the Hindu god-of-war, Lord Murugan’s, shrine. The Sri Maha Mariamman temple is teeming with differing sophisticated architecture that draws in travelers who could get lost in translation the entire day admiring different perspectives and angles.
Sri Maha Mariamman temple’s most strikingly notable feature is its structure’s shape similar to a human body with the head set to the west and the feet positioned to the east. The ‘feet’ is a deity-clad five-tiered 75-feet high ‘Raja Gopuram’ tower and is considered the verge between the spiritual and material world. Indeed, inside is serene with cool floors, lively atmosphere and scented air from flowers, camphor, ‘dhoop’ and ‘agarbattis’. Be spell-bounded by the impeccable gateway of each tier adorned with 228 Hindu idols arranged in scenes from the Ramayana.
Be hypnotized by gold and gemstone embellishments, and hand-painted murals as you enter the garbagraham (or sanctum sanctorum), the inner chamber where the chief deity Sri Maha Mariamman is placed. The main prayer hall of the temple has immensely-decorated onion-domed ceiling that make people stare in amazement. This hall is where priests perform puja (prayers) that disciples take up, resounding in the entire hall. There are three shrines here and four smaller shrines of Lord Ganesha, Lord Muruga, and goddess of wealth Lakshmi around the main prayer hall.
The temple also houses a giant silver chariot with 240 bells and a pair of horses. During the yearly Hindu festival of Thaipusam that is dedicated to Lord Murugan, the chariot is used to carry Lord Murugan to the Batu Caves. Innumerable Hindu devotees gather to engage in the procession that commences with half-an-hour’s chanting. Some devotees attach kavadi (carriers) with portable altars to their skin by hooks and hoist it throughout the procession. Thaipusam never fails to draw in intrigued tourists who are interested to observe and learn Hindu tradition.