Built in 1833, the Arulmigu Sri Mahamariamman Temple situated in George Town Penang is the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia, and features sculptures of gods and goddesses over its main entrance and facade. It is located at Lebuh Queen,George Town. It is also known as Mariamman Temple or Queen Street Indian Temple. Throughout the years, the Sri Mahamariamman temple has also been known by several names: Sri Muthu Mariamman Temple, Sri Arulmigu Mahamariamman Temple, Sri Mariamman Temple. All these names refer to the same temple. The temple is open daily from 6.30 am - 12.00 noon and 4.30 pm - 9.00 pm. It became a place of worship as early as 1801 and became a temple on 1833. It has stood at the same place for more than 200 years.
The temple is in central Georgetown on Lebuh Queen (Queen Street) and the back entrance is on Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling (Pitt Street), in between Lebuh Pasar and Lebuh Chulia. Located in Penang’s Little India, in the capital city of Georgetown, the Sri Maha Mariamman temple reflects the city’s rich cultural heritage.
The tropical island of Penang lies in the Indian Ocean, just off the north-west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Penang’s rapid growth as a trading hub in the early 19th century, especially in commodities such as nutmegs, cloves and pepper, attracted traders from Europe, America, Arabia, India as well as China. Each then established communities, and adopted lifestyles similar to their homeland.
It was during that time that the Tamil Indians arrived in the island’s bustling harbour, and established their own ‘Little India’ community in the city. The early Indian settlers, who came to this island to toil and trade, established an abode for mother, so that her presence could be felt as their guardian deity and guide in their times of trials and tribulations.
Dating back as early as 1801, the Sri Mahamariamman Temple is recognised as an elaborate and spiritual place of worship. Like most Indian temples in Penang, the Penang Sri Mahamariamman began as a small and simple shrine. Not much is known about the early days of the temple or of the persons who founded it. The land was granted in 1801 by the British to Betty Lingam Chetty, who was then the Kapitan (Headman, Kepala or Community Leader) of the Tamils and South Indians. This is confirmed by another grant written in 1831. But, as to how the temple came to be built on this land or who founded it, there is no information.
Built in the south Indian Dravidian style, the temple most outstanding feature is the impressive gopuram (tower). Rising above the entrance, it features Hindu deities, soldiers and floral decorations. On the entrance of Penang Sri Mariamman Temple, you get to see a 23.5 feet tall sculptured tower or Gopuram. Also the 38 statues of Gods and Goddesses and 4 swans featuring the Hindu Goddess Mahamariamman in Her many incarnations such as Meenatchi, Kamatchi, Visalatchi, Bhuvaneswari surrounds the colorful four-tiered crown. It is topped with five small kalasams.