Tucked away, down a narrow street of shops and small businesses on the edge of Chinatown, is the Sri Mahamariamman Temple. Built in 1873, it is the oldest functioning Hindu temple in Malaysia. The ‘Raja Gopuram’ tower, a 75 feet high, pyramid-shaped gate tower, is decorated with depictions of Hindu gods. This Temple resembles the form of a human body lying on its back, with the head positioned towards the west and the feet towards the east. The 5-tiered gopuram corresponds to the feet of the body and is the threshold between the material and spiritual world.
Wisps of fragrant incense smoke, snake into the air, greeting bare footed temple visitors, some dressed as if they are trying to outdo the bright colours of the building. Just past the temple, and the area where many pairs of shoes, abandoned by their owners before they enter the temple, wait to be reclaimed, are stalls of flower sellers. Selling bright garlands of flowers and limes, offerings to the gods. The women who purchase offerings are dressed as brightly and beautifully as the flowers.
Further down the same street, on the opposite side of the road is another temple, this one is Chinese. This Taoist Temple, built in 1888, is dedicated to Guan Di, the Taoist God of War and Literature, one of China’s greatest warriors known as General Kwan, Guan Di or Guan Yu. He was given the title of ‘God of War’ and worshiped due to his excellent fighting and war skills.
This is the location of a 59kg copper Guan Dao (Chinese pole weapon). People come to the temple because they believe the sword possesses a special power to bless and protect them if they touch or lift it, and that it has an inner force which can also good bring luck.