During the 1800s large groups of Tamil Hindus moved from Sri Lanka to Malaysia to help construct railway lines. Many ended up settled in the area that is now known as Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur because it was so close to where the lines were being built. Life was much improved from what it had been in Sri Lanka, but many of them missed having a formal temple to worship in. Up until 1890 they had been worshiping informally in homes and at small, makeshift shrines. On December 24, 1890, though, the leaders of the Saivite Ceylon Hindu Community decided they wanted something more permanent and the plan for Sri Kandaswamy Kovil was born.
The Saivite community was thrilled to have a formal temple in which to perform sacred ceremonies such as “Viratham” (fasting ceremony), “Thithis” (commemoration rituals) and “Punniyaahavaasam” (purification ceremony). The original structure was modelled exctly after the Nallur Kanthaswamy Temple in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, and inaugurated in 1902. Over the years has had several expansions and in 1992 the temple went through a complete renovation. The first series of renovations were completed in 1997 and another renovation was done from 2009-2011. With renovations and constructional updates complete, Sri Kandawamy Kovil is once again a vibrant and elegant symbol of devotion for the thousands of Tamil Hindus living in Kuala Lumpur.
This Hindu temple actually has special significance to us, as well. The handyman for our apartment was Hindu and shortly after our arriving in Malaysia he invited us to his niece’s wedding at this temple. It was such a neat experience and made this temple have a special place in our hearts.
A few months after the wedding we decided we needed to go back to this temple and get some pictures of it. We’d taken pictures of the actual wedding, but hadn’t taken pictures of the temple or the grounds since there were people, cars, tents and wedding signs all over the place. But we did get some great photos of the wedding, which I do need to post. One day. *sigh*
The first thing anyone notices about a Hindu temple is the Gopuram. A Gorpura is an ornate monumental tower at the entrance of any Hindu temple. This is a prominent feature of Koils, Hindu temples of the Dravidian style. They are covered in statues of Hindu deities and topped by the kalasam, a bulbous stone finial.
The use of Gopurams dates back to India during the Tamil Pallava dynasty which held power between the 3rd and 9th centuries. These colossal feats of architecture function as gateways between the outside world and the inner sanctum of the temple. There is usually more than one Gopura on a temple, but the one over the main entrance is the largest and most elaborate.
This is the Gopura over the back entrance.
And this is the Gopura over the side entrance.
We attempted to go inside, thinking it would be okay, but a Hindu priest kindly ushered us back out and told us only Hindus could enter the temple. We were disappointed because the little we saw was so beautiful, but we were able to get one picture from the door before he told us that was not allowed either.
Since we couldn’t go inside, we sufficed with wandering around the grounds. I’d seen them many times from the monorail that goes over the temple and was excited to finally be wandering around them. I kinda wonder, though, how thrilled the devotees are to have the monorail going over their temple grounds every 5-12 minutes.
The grounds of the temple aren’t large, but they are fascinating.
In Hinduism, water has a similar significance as in Christianity: it is believed to have spiritually cleansing powers. Hindus are required to participate in a ritual cleansing in a pool on temple grounds before entering the temple.
I’ve been unable to discover the symbolism of these statues, but I have my theories. The main Hindu Water God is male, so it’s possible these are his priestesses or these could also be representations of the Ganga, the goddess of the sacred river Ganges. Or they could represent something else entirely. In any case, they’re quite lovely.
We also found this cute cow sculpture near the pool. While there is a misconception that Hindus worship cows, they do hold cows in high esteem because of the life-giving offerings of the cow. Long ago cows were sacrificed and eaten, but Hinduism has evolved to where the cow is no longer sacrificed, but things the cow produces are used in rituals. So you will usually find a statue of a cow at a Hindu temple.
The last part of the temple grounds is the temple garden, called Nanthavanam. Hindu temples will all have a garden similar to this one to provide the required lotus flowers for poojas, the daily prayer rituals. The main feature of the garden is a lotus pond with Lord Arumugaswamy, a six-faced manifestation of Lord Vishnu, seated in the center. Behind the pond are Lord Vishnu and Parvati, his wife and goddess of love, fertility and devotion. The peacocks decorating the pond were brought over from Sri Lanka in the 1930s and have remained where they are ever since.
Lord Arumugaswamy, a six-faced manifestation of Lord Vishnu.
Lord Vishnu and Parvati, his wife and goddess of love, fertility and devotion.
Before we left the temple I stopped to take a picture of some of the sculptures atop the temple. This is Lord Vishnu, his wife Parvati and Ganesha, the god of beginnings.
This is the gate that goes to the grounds around the temple. It really amazes me how much detail and vibrancy goes into everything associated with Hindu temples.
We really enjoyed our visit to this temple. It wasn’t a long visit, but it was enjoyable. If you’re looking for a Hindu temple to explore while you’re in Kuala Lumpur, this one is less than two blocks from a monorail stop and about a 15-20 minute walk from KL Sentral. This is the oldest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur and the most traditional in its adherence to the rules of Saiva Agama Scriptures. It is also the temple where the trek to Batu Caves for the Thaipusam festival begins.
LOCATION The intersection of Jalan Tebing and Jalan Scott.
HOW TO GET THERE The easiest way is to take the monorail to the Tun Sambanthan exit and walk down Jalan Tebing with the river on your right. Or you can take a taxi.
If you wish to observe a ritual from outside the temple or come when there are less people, here is the temple schedule.
|Arthajama Pooja: 9:25pm|