The Glass Temple
Johor is one of Malaysia’s state, located in the southern portion of Peninsular Malaysia. It is one of the most developed states in Malaysia. The state capital and royal city is known as Johor Bahru or formerly known as Tanjung Puteri (Princess’ Cape). Johor is also known by its Arabic honorific, Darul Ta’azim or “Abode of Dignity”. Johor is surrounded by the states of Pahang to the north, Malacca and Negeri Sembilan to the northwest and the Straits of Johor to the south which also separates Johor and the Republic of Singapore. In terms of population, Johor is the 5th largest state by land area and 3rd most populated state in Malaysia with a total land area of 19,210 km2 with a population of 3,233,434 as of 2010. Johor has a tropical rainforest climate with monsoon rain from November until February which comes from the South China Sea.
Links to Singapore
Johor is linked to Singapore via two road connections, ie, Johor – Singapore Causeway and the Malaysia – Singapore Second Link. The Causeway carries a railway line which is now part of the main rail route linking Singapore with Thailand via Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Butterworth.
The Johor – Singapore Causeway with a total length of 1038 m was designed by Messrs Coode, Fizmaurice, Wilson & Mitchell of Westminster. The construction contract was awarded to Topham, Jones & Railton Ltd of London. The construction of the Causeway began in 1919 and was completed in 1923. Before the Causeway was built, it was preceded by a railway ferry link in 1903 which connected Johor Bahru to Singapore, which was then the administrative headquarters of British interests in Southeast Asia.
The second road connection which is known as the Malaysia – Singapore Second Link was completed in October 1997; the link consists of 1920 twin-deck bridge supporting a dual three lance carriageway linking Kampong Ladang in Tanjung Kupang, Johor to Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim in Tuas, Singapore.
The Glass Temple – History of the Temple
The majority of migrants from India were ethnic Tamil from the British Presidency of Madras. They were brought in as laborers’ during the British colonization and mainly worked on the plantations in Malaysia back then. As such, majority of Hindu temples are based on southern Indian temple style.
Arulmigu Sri Raja Kaliamman Temple as the locals call it is one of the oldest Hindu temples in Malaysia. It is built with a three tired Gopuram. This temple is one of the oldest Hindu temples in Malaysia as it has its known existence since 1922 on a piece of land bequeathed to the Indians by the generosity of the then Sultan of Johor. The Sultan of Johor, His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar Al Masyur Ibni Al Marhum Sultan Abu Bakar was one of the richest men in the world during his reign from 1895 – 1959. His reign is also the longest in Malaysian history.
The initial temple was built in 1922 and was demolished in 1989 to make way for a new temple during the Chairmanship of Mr. Sivasamy who was the Temple Chairman from 1970 – 1996. Unfortunately, the expected co-operation from the public did not materialize and many of the management committee left leaving Mr. Sivasamy to carry on. The prayers continued to be conducted in the temporary shed that had been erected.
A young graduate teacher by the name of Sinnathamby came to the temple in 1989. He was only 21 years old when the initial temple was demolished in 1989. It was during that time that dreamt of a grand temple that would be built for Sri Raja Kaliamman (the main deity). Sinnnathamby was Mr. Sivasamy’s son and he took it upon himself, with the blessings of the Divine Mother to build a worthy abode for the Divine Mother.
Mr. Sinnathamby has been conducting pooja’s (or prayers) in the temple since 1991 in Tamil chanting and singing in praise of the Divine Mother. He did not stop at temple building. Realizing that many Indian youths are involved in social ills, ThiruGuru (as Mr. Sinnathamby is now known) started his mission to fight the evil influences among youth by establishing NYANA YUTHAM FOUNDATION with the aim of instilling moral and spiritual values and helping in the education of the local youth.
The Glass Temple Story
Mr. Sinnathamby, a staunch devotee of Sri Raja Kaliamman was in Bangkok to attend the Asia Games when he saw something shimmering in the distance. He was not going in that direction but when the shimmering continued to attract his attention, he asked the driver of his tuk – tuk (motor taxi) to go to the shimmering. When he reached the area, he found that it was a Buddhist temple with a wooden entrance with some glasswork. After that trip, he dreamt of how he would build a Hindu temple of glass. He believed that Sri Raja Kaliamman had hinted to him on the abode which she would like and that Surya Bhagavan had shown him the way.
In 1993, a 10 ft statue of Mother Kali was installed at the initial temple grounds. Mr. Sinnathamby then built a Sannithi for the Mahakaliamman statue complete with glasswork in the year 2000. In the year 2007, Mr. Sinnathamby decided to realize his dream of building a glass temple. His temple was not to have a glass frontage but to have 95% of the interior covered with glass as well as the glass covered Gopuram.
A Sight to Behold!
The glasswork of the temple is made up of 500,000 glass pieces. These glass pieces were imported from Thailand, Japan and Belgium in 6 colors which were blue, red, yellow, green, purple and silver. The glass pieces were bought and cut into various shapes and sizes.
The design for the temple was done by Mr. Sinnathamby. He supervised nine Myanmar (Burmese) artisans to complete the work as per his design specification. The interior walls of the temple are made up of 95% glasswork. This same glasswork is also applied in the Raja Gopuram and the Moolasthanam Gopuram on its exterior. In Shiva’s abode within the temple’s premises, 300,000 rudraksha beads cover its interior walls. Motives and symbols of swastika and lingam adorn the walls of the premises. The cost of renovations was Malaysian Ringgit 3 million which was about 1 million US Dollars. The State Government donated Malaysian Ringgit 400,000 while the balance of the funds was raised from public donations. The temple was completed and the consecration ceremony was held on 25th October 2009 where a crowd of 30,000 people came to witness its consecration ceremony. The temple has seen hundreds of crowds visiting it every week.
The Divine Mother – Sri Raja Kaliamman
The main deity of this temple is Kaali, the Divine Mother. Here, she is worshipped as Sri Raja Kaliamman or also known as Maha Kaali or Thillai Kaali which means the “savior of the universe”. The floor of this temple is paved with granite. The basalt image of the mother, dressed in gorgeous gold brocade, stands on a white marble image of the prostrate body of her Divine Consort, Shiva, the symbol of the Absolute. On the feet of the Goddess are, among other ornaments, anklets of gold. Her arms are decked with jeweled ornaments of gold.
She wears necklaces of gold and pearls, a golden crown, golden earrings, and a golden nose ring with pearl drop. She has eight arms. The lower left hand holds a severed human head and the upper grips a blood stained sabre. One right hand offers books to her children, the other allays their fears. The majesty of her posture can hardly be described. Her posture combines the terror of destruction with the reassurance of motherly tenderness.
She is the cosmic power, the totality of the universe, her glorious harmony of the pairs of opposite. She metes out the death sentence as she creates and as she preserves. She has three eyes, the third eye being the symbol of divine wisdom. She strikes dismay into the wicked and yet pours affection to her devotees.