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Dhammikarama Buddhist Temple announces itself with a vibrant splash of red and gold, and an ornate entrance guarded by two impressive white stone elephants. Beyond these, your eye is drawn to golden pillars, rows of gracefully arching golden roofs and the shining peaks of golden chedis, conical-shaped monuments. Established in 1803, this is Penang’s oldest Buddhist temple. Once inside, you’ll find numerous paintings, murals and statues all dedicated to celebrating the history and legends of Buddhism.
The temple owes its existence to the population of Burmese who have inhabited the nearby area since the late 18th century. This is the only Burmese temple in Penang, though over time it has expanded to include imagery influenced by a number of Buddhist countries.
Make sure to take your time and explore this complex house of prayer. You won’t miss the main prayer hall, though, guarded by two fierce chinthes, mythical lion-like statues. Inside, you’ll find the main image of Buddha, standing tall and almost entirely golden but for the large white palm he holds outwards in a gesture of peace.
From here, make your way to the Arahant Upugatta Shrine. With its pointed spires and ornate golden peaks, this monument is held in extreme reverence. Devotees believe the shrine can help overcome almost any of life’s obstacles. At its foot you will likely notice offerings of baskets of fruit and flowers as well as aromatic burning incense.
Look for a colorful mural depicting the story of Siddhartha and the fierce looking Panca Rupa, two mythical beings which stand astride a large globe, serving as the Guardian Protectors of the World. Towards the back of the complex, keep your eye out for the temple well. Now disused, it’s full of koi and a number of green turtles.
The Dhammikarama Buddhist Temple hosts a number of festivals throughout the year. In February it becomes a riot of color for the Chinese New Year celebrations, while Wesak Day in May sees worshipers splash each other with water and give respects to their elders.
The temple is located in the Pulau Takis district of Georgetown. To get there, take any bus that goes through Burmah Road or Kelawai Road. The temple is open daily and free to enter.
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