Malaysia has been one of my favourite holiday destinations of all time and I am in love with the multi cultural kaleidoscope of the country. Being a country which was present on the busy straits of Malacca, there has been a significant Chinese and British influence over the local Malay culture. Now, Malaysia is famous for a lot of cities like Kuala Lumpur, Genting and Penang, one city that is conveniently forgotten is Selangor. But what most people do not realise is Selangor is the first place they see while landing in Malaysia. I take a trip through all the religious sites of Selangor to truly understand the potpourri of cultures that exist here.
Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Blue Mosque
Islam is one of the dominant religions in Malaysia and having a plethora of mosques is expected. But the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Mosque will blow you away with it’s timeless beauty. Although the first Blue Mosque was built in Istanbul, this one looks just as beautiful. The second largest mosque in South East Asia has a blue and silver dome along with four minarets that flank it.
Commissioned by the late Sultan of Selangor in 1970’s, the mosque is an unique blend of Malayan and Middle Eastern architecture. There is a seamless transition from traditional to modern design elements. The windows are fitted with blue stained glass which gives the interiors an ethereal bluish hue to it. The interiors of the mosque are lined with calligraphy adorning verses from the Quran. The mosque overlooks the Garden of Islamic Arts. I visited here to observe some timeless pieces of Islamic culture. There are sculptures, paintings along with more calligraphy. But every mosque I go, I am spellbound by the carpet which lies on the prayer room. This one, just like the others is intricately beautiful.
FGS Dong Zen Temple
The Fo Guang Shang Dong Zen Temple is the largest Buddhist cultural centre in Selangor. I was very lucky to visit this masterpiece of Buddhist cultural extravaganza during the time of the Chinese new year. Being lit up with decorations and lanterns, it is a sight to behold. The courtyard of the temple is a riot of colours with a plethora of flowers adorning the garden.
The interiors of a Buddhist temple are much different from other places of worship. As the focus is more on meditation, there are only minimal sounds of chants in the background. A huge statue of Buddha adorns the center piece. It is truly a spiritual experience sitting here and enjoying the peace that this place offers. There are also other statues depicting the different stages of Buddhism. I sipped on some Chinese green tea as I waited for night to fall and the place to become brightly lit up. There is something truly enchanting about seeing this place bright lit against the night sky. Oddly, I was more at peace with myself while leaving.
Lord Murugan Statue at the Batu Caves
The Batu Caves are a 400 million year set of limestone caves that houses one of the major Hindu attractions in South East Asia. In the late 19th century, quite a few South Indian had established themselves as traders in the region. They established these caves as their temples and installed the effigies. One of the biggest of these caves is the Temple Cave which houses quite a few of the shrines.
As is the case with most of the Hindu temples, there is a lot of climbing involved, steep 272 steps of it. After getting up, the dim lighted rough hewn caves are a strange place to find your deities. There are other caves in the complex too, namely the Art Gallery Cave and the Museum Cave. The Ramayana cave stands to the far left of the complex. But the biggest attraction of these caves is the large statue of Murugan which dominates the complex. Golden in colour, it towers over us mere mortals to an impressive 140 feet. These caves are the site for the famous Thaipusam festival.
Om Sri Maha Athi Nageswary Amman Temple
This Hindu temple is one of the ornately decorated ones. The multi coloured eight tiered Gopuram is visible from a distance. The temple gives homage to the snake goddess Nageswary Amman. A number of seven headed cobras adorn pillars under which the deities rest. Belonging to the Northern part of India, I have not been exposed to the multitude of Hindu Gods down in the Southern part of my own country. But the magnanimity of the deities, especially the 65 feet high Shiva Lingam made me fall in love with it.
Selangor typifies the multicultural ethos of Malaysia. These places of worship are the best place to understand this cultural admixture.
Image courtesy: Visit Selangor