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Wonderful Malaysia

Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Georgetown

Situated right in the middle of Penang’s Little India in the city of Georgetown is the Sri Mahamariamman temple, a truly amazing architecture that delivers a sight filled with culture and heritage.

Sri Mahamariamman Temple in Georgetown, Penang 1

The Sri Mahamariamman temple dates back to the year 1801 and is known to be one of the most popular altar and spiritual worship entities in the country. Back then, the Sri Mahamariamman temple was constructed after the Indian community realised a need for a proper temple ground to worship the gods. The number of devotees had increased each year, leading to a lack of space for them to perform prayers and rites. After much extension and refurbishment, the original temple was fully completed in 1833 where it still stands erect today close to two centuries since its building.

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The beauty of the Sri Mahamariamman temple is the elaborated art work, known as gopuram, plastered around the building. Every piece of art work was made by the hands of Southern India’s finest and the best artists. Other parts of the temple is also decorated with various Hindu deities, sacred animals and colourful and eye catching architecture, making it one of the best and most stunning temples in Penang island.

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Subramaniam, Durga, and Ganapathy are just some of the beautiful deities that are worshipped here in the Sri Mahamariamman temple. All the sculptures clearly show the magnificent workmanship of the artists. There are also some exclusive statues which have gold, diamond and emerald finery mounted on it, such as the statue of Lord Subramaniam.

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Prayers usually take place in the early morning, so if you would like to observe how the temple priests conduct the prayers, do drop by the temple in the early morning. However, make sure you adhere to the unwritten rules of the temple or any other house of worship. You will first need to obtain the permission of the elder priest before entering the temple. Do not attempt to sneak in as it is not polite and you might even offend the gods. Also, remember to take off your shoes before entry.

Opening hours

Known also by other names such as Sri Muthu Mariamman Temple and Sri Arulmigu Mahamariamman Temple, the Sri Mariamman Temple is open every day from 8.00am to 12.00pm The temple is closed for a break of several hours and you are welcome to resume your visit at 4.30pm to 9.00pm

Entrance fees

Entrance to the temple is free of charge. Visitors are not allowed in with their shoes on.

How to get to the Sri Mahamariamman Temple

The temple is located in the center of Georgetown on Lebuh Queen (Queen Street) in the Little Indian area. The back entrance is on Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling (Pitt Street), in between Lebuh Pasar and Lebuh Chulia. To visit this lovely temple from Kuala Lumpur, you will need to make your way to the island of Penang either by road or by air. The journey by road will take you between 3-4 hours depending on your speed while one of the flights available daily will take you only 50 minutes. However, if you are already in Penang, make your way to Jalan Masjid Kapitan Kling (Lebuh Pitt) which the temple sits on. The road lies in between Lebuh Pasar and Lebuh Chulia, two of the most popular streets in Penang, so you’d wouldn’t have trouble finding this structure rich in culture and arts.

Video Sri Mahamariamman Temple

Map of the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Georgetown

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Got any good tips to share with us? Do you know of any great things to do in Penang, or tips on the best places to eat? Let us know by leaving a reply below!

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Tourism Malaysia

Exploring Georgetown, Penang

Exploring Georgetown, Penang

Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia is a hotspot for history buffs; its origins as a British colonial trade depot serving as the foundation for the district’s dining, shopping and cultural attractions. Nicknamed the “Pearl of the Orient”, Georgetown’s status as Penang’s foremost historical attraction was cemented in 2008 by UNESCO recognition as a World Heritage Site.

Trishaw in front of Penang City Hall. Pic: Tourism Malaysia.

Trishaw in front of Penang City Hall. Pic: Tourism Malaysia.

Over the centuries, trade and war brought a rich blend of ethnic settlers to Georgetown. Chinese, Indians, Malays, Arabs, Siamese, Burmese and European settlers built their homes and trading houses side by side in Georgetown, resulting in a colorful collection of historic buildings: Chinese clan houses, European churches, Chinese and Indian temples, Malay mosques, streets lined with bungalows and shophouses, and, of course, the aforementioned British fort.

Today, Georgetown lies in a 109-hectare plot bounded by Love Lane, Gat Lebuh Melayu, Jalan Dr. Lim Chwee Leong, and the Straits of Melaka. Within this district, visitors can find over 1,700 historical buildings, with the most famous examples aligned down Georgetown’s four main streets Pengkalan Weld, Lebuh Pantai, Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling and Lorong Love.

We recommend you start your Georgetown trip at the offices of the Penang Heritage Trust (26 Church Street, www.pht.org.my), where you can secure maps and brochures to help you get your bearings on this rich historical district in Penang.

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Georgetown, Penang. Pic: Tourism Malaysia.

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Georgetown, Penang. Pic: Tourism Malaysia.

Penang’s Chinatown is located in the vicinity of Lebuh Chulia and Lorong Love, and hosts some of Georgetown’s most popular bars, restaurants, and budget hotels, along with a rich array of shophouses, markets, and houses of worship. Visit the Khoo Kongsi clan house at the corner of Lebuh Pitt and Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling and the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion on Lebuh Leith to see how prosperous Chinese merchants must have lived like back in the day.

The Hainan Temple, Kuan Yin Teng temple, and Acheen Street Mosque demonstrate the rich faith practised by traders in Chinatown. And it wasn’t all trade going on around here – Chinese nationalist hero Dr. Sun Yat Sen called Georgetown home for a while, staying at an apartment at 120 Lebuh Armenian that is now a shrine to his memory.

Georgetown is big on places of worship, nowhere more so than Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, also known by its nickname “the Street of Harmony”. Its moniker is well-earned; a variety of religious buildings line this street, including the Kapitan Keling Mosque that gave it its name; the Sri Mahamariamman Temple; and the Goddess of Mercy Temple.

The British never really left Georgetown as you can see from the significant architectural presence they left behind. Significant British sites include Fort Cornwallis on the north-eastern coast; Victoria Clock Tower, the Town Hall and the State Assembly Building on Lebuh Light; St. George’s Anglican Church on Farquhar Street; and City Hall on Padang Kota Lama Road.

Fort Cornwallis, Georgetown, Penang. Pic: Tourism Malaysia.

Fort Cornwallis, Georgetown, Penang. Pic: Tourism Malaysia.

Visit Little India for some of Georgetown’s finest eats; it’s the area bounded by Penang Street, Market Street, King Street, and Queen Street. You’ll find mamak restaurants serving hot teh tarik; Indian restaurants serving up roti canai, banana leaf rice, biryani, tandoori chicken, and an endless variety of curries; and street vendors hawking Malaysian noodle dishes.

Other key places to see in Little India include the King Street Temples, Nagore Shrine at the corner of King and Chulia Streets, and Sri Mahamariamman Temple on Queen Street. Penang has a richly-deserved reputation for food, and most of that reputation was earned by Georgetown restaurants and hawkers. Chinese and Indian food come good and cheap, served in street carts along Gurney Drive. For authentic dim sum and noodle dishes served up Penang style, Lebuh Cintra’s food carts are happy to oblige.

Jalan Penang caters to both high and low food budgets, with posh lounges and tapas bars, along with the gigantic food court Red Garden near the corner of Jalan Chulia. If you stay for the weekend, you’ll discover Upper Penang Road’s transformation into a street market on the last Sunday of every month. The “little Penang Street Market” features 70 stalls with street food, live performances, kids’ activities, and other special diversions.

Other shopping stops in Georgetown include the fancy Gurney Plaza shopping centre on Gurney Drive; the more downmarket Chowrasta Bazaar on Jalan Penang; Midlands Park Centre on Burmah Road; and the stalls along Lebuh Campbell, Lebuh Chulia, and Lebuh Pantai.

Getting around Georgetown is relatively easy, thanks to a free shuttle bus (MPPP Rapid Penang CAT) that services 19 stops within Georgetown and its surrounding buffer zone. Other transport options include taxis and trishaws; both Weld Quay Jetty and the KOMTAR Complex serve as major bus terminals for Penang.

Or you can just explore on foot, the way Georgetown’s rich mix of residents did of old; you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find while you walk down Georgetown’s narrow history-filled streets.

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Wonderful Malaysia

Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Kuala Lumpur

It might not have occurred to you that a house of worship could be both cultural and attention-grabbing at the same time. The Sri Mahamariamman temple in Kuala Lumpur is one of the most popular temples among worshippers and visitors alike. The Sri Mahamariamman temple was built in year 1873 by K. Thamboosamy Pillai but was only opened to the public in the 1920s. After withstanding time and elements, the original structure was replaced with the current building in 1968. Today, with more than a century of history, the Sri Mahamariamman temple is the oldest as well as the richest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia.

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So how does the Sri Mahamariamman temple pique your interest? The most remarkable feature of the temple is a structure which is similar to the shape of a human body with its head positioned towards the west and the feet pointing east. The feet are symbolized by a 75-feet high gopuram (monumental tower) standing five tiers high. There is an impressive gateway at every tier, each adorned with 228 Hindu deities that are sculpted in the styles of south India. The chief deity, Sri MahaMariamman, is installed at the inner sanctum which is the only entrance that faces to the east.

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The main prayer hall in the temple decorated by murals and frescos is another focal point for you. The location of three shrines in the main temple is roofed by an ornamental embellished dome. In addition, there are four smaller shrines dedicated to Lord Ganesha and his brother, Lord Muruga, located around the main prayer hall.

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You could spot a giant sliver chariot which is also a major feature during the Hindu festival of Thaipusam. The chariot is brought out from the temple when Thaipusam approaches. You may pay a visit to the temple on that holy day to see for yourself how the chariot is used to carry the statues of Lord Muruga and his consorts (Valli and Teivayanni) up to Batu Caves in wee hours of the morning. Prayers are offered prior to the long possession where devotees attach huge carriers (kavadi) to their bodies by hooks and haul the portable altars with lances piercing their skins. Other devotees will carry containers containing milk as offering to Lord Muruga. Thaipusam is one festival that never fails to attract curious onlookers who are keen to learn and observe Hindu cultures. Another popular festival that puts the Sri Mahamariamman temple in the center of attention is Deepavali, the festival of Light.

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The Sri Mahamariamman temple boasts various intricate architecture that if you are a photography enthusiast, you could spend the whole day here find capturing shots of various angles and perspectives.

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Nearby attractions

Popular attractions nearby the Indian temple are of course the vibrant Petaling Street (Night Day) market, Central Market, Merdeka Square and the equally beautiful Guan Di Chinese Temple (located along the same road, just 40 meters from Sri Mahamariamman).

Opening hours

The temple is open daily from 6am until 8.30pm (Friday until 9.30pm, Saturday until 9pm). During special festivals opening hours sometimes differ.

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Entrance fees

Entrance to the temple is free of charge. A tiny fee of a few ringgit is charged for storing your shoes at a safe place when you are visiting the inside of the temple. Visitors are not allowed in with their shoes on.

Contact details address Sri Mahamariamman Temple

Jalan Tun H. S. Lee (Jalan Bandar)
50050 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia
Tel: + 604 263 4941

How to get to the Sri Mahamariamman Temple

The temple is located within Chinatown, near Petaling Street. If you are coming by metro, just exit at the Pasar Seni LRT station. From there you have to walk about 50 meters along Jalan Sultan, and then turn left into Jalan Tun H. S. Lee. You will see Sri Mahamariamman on your left side after 50 meters. Jalan Tun H. S. Lee runs parallel to Petaling Street. Alternatively, you could also take a taxis or a bus to your destination, any taxi driver will know the location of the temple.

Video Sri Mahamariamman Temple

Map of the Sri Mahamariamman Temple

Suggestions?

Got any good tips to share with us? Do you know of any great things to do in Kuala Lumpur, or tips on the best places to eat? Let us know by leaving a reply below!

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Georgetown Festival

August 26, 2011 at 2:00 pm

The second day of the festival started out a little bit more toned down compared to the first day. I guess it is always good to start something with a bang. Ever since I saw the brochure, one of the major events that I felt I had to catch was the Teochew puppet show performance. I have never had the chance to see such a show, one of the disadvantages of growing up in a big city. Cultural themed performances like the Chinese opera that is usually performed during the Chinese 7th month or even puppet shows like this are a rarity in the city. As this particular performance is scheduled to happen throughout the whole three days of the festival, I decided to schedule the visit to the second day.

Georgetown Festival 2011

A senior member of the Kim Giak Low Choon Puppet Show putting on the make-up for a younger member of the troupe.

Today, most of the events revolve around the history of Georgetown in a form of public talks. These talks are free to the public and to avoid disappointment, members of the public are encouraged to register themselves earlier at the Penang Heritage Trust located along Church Street. For some reason, most of the talks were scheduled to start only in the evening, that is from 7.00 pm onwards. There was a talk on the Japanese occupation of Penang during the World War II and another on Dr. Sun Yat Sen during his time in Penang, where he planned the Canton Uprising in Guangzhou, China. The other two talks touched on the subject of Straits born people – the Jawi Peranakan and Straits Muslim’s culinary heritage and the history of the Baba Nyonya. While two of the talks were held at the Town Hall along Jalan Padang Kota Lama, the other two were held elsewhere.

Georgetown Festival 2011

An assistant of the Kim Giak Low Choon Puppet Show troupe putting on the finishing touches to the puppet’s costume.

Other than the public talks, there was also an Indian dance and musical performance later that night. It was held at the junction of Penang and Chulia Street, not far from an enclave known as Little India. There were other events going on as well, like the Heritage Celebration at Acheen Street and the Penang Teochew Association Exhibition. I, on the other hand, was biding my time and conserving both me and the camera’s batteries for that night’s shows. For those of you who have never heard of a Teochew puppet show (like yours truly here…), do allow me to briefly explain what is it all about. The puppet show utilises painted wooden puppets that looks somewhat like the paper effigies that the Chinese burn for the loved ones in the netherworld. These wooden puppets are dressed in elaborate costumes, similar to the performers in a Chinese opera show. A metal rod is attached to the back to allow the puppeteer to manipulate it from the back. Two smaller rods attached to the puppet’s hands allows the puppeteer to make the puppet more interesting by introducing hand gestures while it is acting.

Georgetown Festival 2011

These two ladies must be pretty used to having shutterbugs nearby whenever they start the routine of putting on their makeup…

The puppet show that I managed to catch during the festival saw four main people managing the works backstage, with one or two additional hands to help with the minor stuff, like placing props during the performance or preparing the other dolls. Two were playing the musical instruments for the show, another two sitting backstage manipulating the puppets. The young man that was playing the music also provided the voice for the male puppet whereas one of the lead female performer provided the voice for the other female puppet. The show is run by a family of puppeteers called the Kim Giak Low Choon Puppet Show. They are famous throughout Penang and can often be seen performing during the Chinese Lunar seventh month around town. This troupe originated from China and later migrated to Malaysia.

Georgetown Festival 2011

These are some of the puppets that is used for their Teochew puppet shows.

As one of the ladies was putting on make-up for the two kids who will be performing later, I noticed two other ladies sitting quietly at the far side of the stage, busy putting on thick make-up. From the colours and layers of the make-up, I noticed that it was most probably the make-up used for an opera show. While the finished results may look simple but striking, the process of getting that look is an elaborate one. The whole process from the start to the end can easily take up to 45 minutes to get it up. Nevertheless, it is an interesting watch to see them get into character before the show.

Georgetown Festival 2011

Watching the two youngest members perform in front of a big group can be very interesting…

As the time drew near to the start of the show, many people gathered around and made themselves comfortable. While most people preferred sitting at a table to enjoy the performance, I chose to sit on the floor and directly in front of the stage with a few other kids, which in my opinion, are always the best seats in the house. The show started soon enough, with a female puppet making its appearance on that tiny stage enveloped in a cloud of mist. I later learned that she is a ghost (the biggest clue was when the male puppet came on stage and later shivered in fright, calling out ‘Ghost!’ ‘Ghost!’ in Teochew). There was an LED board on the stage, with the dialogue in Chinese characters for those who do not understand the Teochew language. Since I did not understand both the language and the words, I just enjoyed the show as it was, with all its music and antics from the puppets. After the show, it was time for the two youngest member of the troupe to strut their stuff. I must say they were really good, given their age and all. But then again, if one have been doing this since they were young, I would say that it has already become like second nature for them to perform opera shows in front of big crowds.

Georgetown Festival 2011

The Indian folk dance performers with their costumes in front of the Sri Mahamariamman Temple

As much as I wanted to stay to watch the whole thing, I decided to head back towards Little India to catch the Indian cultural performance there. At the end of Chulia Street, I could see the Kapitan Kling Mosque all lighted up for the festival. I passed by the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, where there was a group of dancers and musicians all dressed up in their dance costumes. There were a few guys who dressed as a horse and two girls who had peacock feathers attached to their costumes. When the music started (there was also a band of traditional Indian music performers), the whole entourage started to dance and walk along the busy streets. They stopped at the stage where they later demonstrated a few Indian folk dances, like the one which is known as the ‘Stick Dance’ and the ‘Peacock Dance’. There was also a Sitar and Tabla recital as well as other Hindi dances performed later that night.

Georgetown Festival 2011

The Indian folk dance performers parading from the Sri Mahamariamman Temple to the stage area to the beat of the music.

It was well after 10.00 pm before I started making my way back to my nice and fully air-conditioned room, where I could take a well-deserved shower and rest my poor aching feet. Two days of the festival down and just one more to go…

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