Places of Worship

Penangites are on the whole a superstitious, god-fearing and religious lot. This tendency, and the multiracial population has given rise to a very cosmopolitan spiritual form. Mosques, Taoist and Buddhist temples, Indian and Sikh temples, Burmese shrines, Thai wats and churches of different denominations dot the streets of Penang.

Acheen Street Mosque,
Lebuh Acheen

Also known as Masjid Melayu, the mosque was built on land donated by Syed Sheriff Tengku Syed Hussain Aidid who came from Acheh in Sumatera. The 1820 mosque features a small window halfway up the minerat which is said to have originally been a hole made by cannonball fired during the 1867 triad riots.

Cathedral of the Assumption,
Lebuh Farquhar

Cathedral of Assumption’s history is almost as old as Penang itself, setup not long after the landing of Francis Light. The faithful believers have kept the current parish since the mid-19th century. Tel: 604-261 0088

Dharmikarama Burmese Temple,

Lorong Burma

A pair of elephants guard the entrance to this Burmese temple. within the pagoda grounds is a Boddhi tree and a wishing pond. It is the scene of many festivities during the water festival in April.

Han Jiang Ancestrial Temple of the Penang Teochew Association,

Lebuh Chulia

The Han Jiang Ancestrial Temple of the Penang Teochew Association is the pround recipient of the 2006 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation.

Penang Teochew Association
127 Chulia Street, 10200 Penang, Malaysia • Tel: 604-261 5629, 262 5629 • Fax: 604-263 6784

Kapitan Kling Mosque,
Jalan Kapitan Keling

Named after the Indian Muslim merchant, the “Kapitan Keling” (headman) Caudeer Mohudeen who built it in the early 19th century. It features an ocher yellow facade and dome-shaped minaret reflecting Moorish Islamic influence. Tourists should be properly attired when entering the mosque.

Kek Lok Si Temple, Ayer Itam

Perhaps the finest Buddhist temple in South East Asia, the Kek Lok Si temple stands majestically on a hill in Ayer Itam. Construction began in 1893 and was completed in 1905. Built in tiers, the beautifully crafted “Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas” took more than 20 years to build and was only completed in 1930. It combines a Chinese octagonal base, middle tiers of Thai architecture and a Burmese crown, reflecting the temple’s wide embrace of Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism. The temple also features gardens, a turtle pond, shrines and beautiful sculptures. This is one of Penang’s most popular attractions.

Khoo Kongsi,
Lebuh Cannon

Probably Penang’s most picturesque building, the Khoo Kongsi is made up of two buildings on opposite sides to each other. One building serves as the ancestral temple while the other is used for staging plays and operas. The Khoo Kongsi is meant only for members of the Leong San Tong (Dragon Mountain Hall) clan, whose forefathers came from Sin Kang village in Hokkien province, China. Construction of the Khoo Kongsi started in 1894 and took eight years to complete.

Its original design was very elaborate meant to capture the splendour of the Chinese imperial palace. Its seven-tiered pavilion, dragon pillars and hand-painted walls engraved with the Khoo emblem was thought to have even outshone the imperial palace itself. On the first night of its completion, the Khoo Kongsi caught fire and many said it was because the gods were unhappy with the scale of its grandeur. It was then rebuilt on a smaller scale but it still retains the distinctive architecture of the master craftsmen from China.

Kuan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) Temple,
Jalan Kapitan Keling

Known as the Temple of the Goddess of Mercy, this popular Taoist temple is located close to the Kapitan Kling Mosque on Jalan Kapitan Keling, formerly known as Pitt Street. Believed to be the oldest temple in Penang, it was built in the 1800s by early Chinese settlers. Kuan Yin was a being who had actually attained Nirvana but stayed behind to save those souls who did not escaped the world of suffering.

The temple is also dedicated to Ma Chor Poh, the virgin goddess of mercy and saint to sea voyagers. The high roof of the main hall is supported by dragon-entwined pillars carved from a type of green stone. The statue of Kuan Yin as a serenely composed woman with 18 arms sits on an inner chamber.

Nattukotai Temple,
Jalan Air Terjun

The temple is dedicated to the deity, Bala Subramaniam, and features prominently during the annual Taipusam festival when thousands of devotees throung its premises for the various rites and ceremonies.

Penang State Mosque,
Jalan Masjid Negeri

The State Mosque features elegant modern architecture and took four years to complete. It can accommodate 5,000 worshippers for congregational prayers and is usually packed on Fridays. Permission to enter must be obtained from the State Religious department, Lebuh Pantai. Visitors must dress appropriately and remove their shoes before entering.

Snake Temple, Sungai Kluang

The Snake Temple was built in 1850 in memory of the Buddhist priest, Choo Sor Kong, who is said to have healing powers. Legend, however, has it that the place used to be the home of a religious man who gave shelter to poisonous snakes when they sought refuge there. After his death, the snakes remained and it became a place of worship.

Also known as Temple of Azure Cloud, the serpents’ shrine is an extraordinary one: poisonous pit vipers busk on altars, incense burners, candlesticks, vases and tables, underfoot and overhead. Recommended for the intrepid visitors.

Sri Mariamman Temple, Lebuh Queen

Penang’s oldest Hindu temple which was built in 1883, is filled with colourful statues of Hindu deities. Among the priceless possessions of this ornate building is a statue of Lord Subramaniam richly decorated with gold, silver, diamonds and emeralds. During Thaipusam festival, the statue is taken on a chariot procession by Hindu devotees.

St. Anne’s Church, Bukit Mertajam

From a small chapel built atop a hillock by visiting priest Fr. Adolphe Couellan in 1846, it grew to become a center of pilgrimage in the region. Hence a bigger church was built next to the old one, now called the Shrine. The dedication of the new church with its multi-tiered Minangkabau roofs and Gothic architecture was held on the 26 July 2002.

The church was named after St Anne, mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and has a sitting capacity of 1,800. Celebrations are held on a grand scale annually in conjunction with the annual St Anne's Feast (in the month of July) which is usually followed by two nights of candelight procession by thousands of devotees at the church grounds.

St. George’s Church, Lebuh Farquhar

Built with convict labor in 1818, the Anglican Church was named after the patron saint of England, and is one of the region’s oldest. The Greek temple in the church grounds is a memorial to Francis Light. Today, church goers still flock to the church for service and it remains virtually unchanged.

Wat Chayamankalaram, Lorong Burma

The world’s third largest reclining Buddha which measures 33 metres in length, is draped in gold-leafed saffron and reclines on a large crematorium. This Buddhist temple is reminiscent of Bangkok’s many wats. The intricate finish of the interior in vibrant colours and designs is a sample of Thai architecture.

Behind the temple is a small Thai village as well as a Thai cemetery. At this temple, the local Thais celebrate the traditional Buddhist festivals, the Sonkran and the Loy Krathong.

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