Stowed away at the end of a nondescript plain lane next to Johor Bahru's Tebrau Highway, Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Temple is what I would call a 'genie in a bottle'... where a big personality is trapped inside a small existence.
My curiousity to check this place out was seduced by the temple's claim to be "the first glass temple in the world", but other than the temple being covered in tiny pieces of mosaic mirrors reminiscent of some of the sparkling wats (Buddhist temples) in Thailand, what fascinated me more were the statues that I found inside.
Getting to Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Temple
Not to be confused with Arulmigu Rajamariamman Devasthanam Temple, which is a major Hindu temple in JB a stone's throw away from City Square Mall, Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Temple is a much smaller and lesser populated monument of faith. It is also not too far from City Square Mall.
While it is possible to walk from Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Temple from City Square Mall by walking along Jalan Tun Abdul Razak (which is an arterial main road fronting one side of the mall) it is easier to just take a cab there which will cost under RM10 from the JB immigration checkpoint. The journey takes under 10 minutes without a traffic jam so it is pretty accessible.
Mirrors, Mirrors on the Temple...
... who's the shiniest of them all? Personally, when I first arrived at Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Temple, I was like "We're here already?" I was expecting something more bewildering than the petite, can't tell it's made of glass temple before me.
|Facade of Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Temple, the first glass temple in the world.|
But on closer examination, it does present a marked differentiation from conventional Hindu temples that are coloured solely by paint or terracotta and not a mix of paint and hued mirror tiles.
|Containing the colourful gopura of the temple within an eyeful of my sunglasses.|
|The structural form of the gopura is covered in a mosaic of mirrored tiles but the Hindu deities and statues are painted.|
|So we spent the minutes clicking away at the colourful mirrored doors of the temple. On hindsight, it is lucky that we encountered the temple when the doors are closed so we can truly appreciate geometry of the mirrored decorations.|
|A rudimentary stone statue of Shiva guarding the entrance to Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Temple. It is an inheritance from the temple's early beginning as a shrine in 1922.|
A Reflection of Acceptance
Since we were the only 3 visitors to the temple, the staff didn't bothered to on the interior lights and it was rather dull. So we requested for the lights to be switched on and when they were, the magical colours of the place sprang to life. You can see the above photo for when the lights were off and the photo below for when the chandeliers were turned on.
|But what captured my attention in the temple were the line-up of holy figures from other religions.|
Would I be persecuted for mish-mashing the greetings and proclamations of Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism? To me, I view the choice of faith, if there is a choice, as choosing a belief of the after-life. Whether it is the belief of an endless cycle of samsara (reincarnation) till the soul attains nirvana or a definite eternal resting place for the soul in heaven or hell, faith, deals with what happens after life ends because in this life, our experiences and what humanity goes through are all the same.
For that matter, in my simplistic view, all religions share a common foundation in laying down a code of conduct or morality for humanity to aspire towards self-betterment through love, compassion, kindness, empathy and peace with all that is around us. So a choice to follow a system of belief, or the choice of not having one, shouldn't be a contest for supremacy but an acceptance that the vastness of life contains a myriad formulations to equate good and decipher death. Just like food for you and me to sustain life is not food for all animals, insects, plants or microbes... and vice-versa. So, you know, like the saying goes, let's not make this life a living hell for others.
|A statue of Buddha, Jesus Christ and a religious holy man lined the pillars encircling the holy shrine flanked by Ganesha, the Hindu elephant god.|
|Amitabha... the enlightened figure of Mahayana Buddhism in a surya mudra (ring finger to thumb) pose. The fingering conveys a blessing of vitality and energy.|
|Mother Teresa... a recognition of the Roman Catholics' belief system in the Hindu Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple.|
|Namaste. Here's a statue of Sathya Sai Baba, an oft controversial religious figure whose doctrines usher in a new age of interfaith beliefs and traditions.|
|Statue of Shiva with a cobra around his neck. The cobra represents all the bad things (evil, demons, etc) and this statue is a devotional consolation that good will always triumph over evil.|
|A head relief of the goddess Kali eyes every visitor that comes into the central ritual shrine of Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple.|
|I'm not familiar with Hindu rituals, perhaps you can enlighten me, but we came across a prayer session where only women attended.|
|It was enlightening to visit Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple for its open acceptance of different religions. The temple challenged the confines of my mind about faith and I'm glad I left a bigger person.|
Or so I would like to think :)