Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sri Maha Mariamman - The Lost Temple of Matang

From Sri Maha Mariamman


Extracts from The Borneo Post...

"Sri Maha Mariamman Temple – The Lost Temple of Matang

THE Sri Maha Mariamman (goddess of Mercy) temple, 1000 feet up the slope of the Matang mountain in the Kuching district was ‘lost’ for more than 50 years before it was discovered accidentally by a hunter back in the mid 1960s.

From Sri Maha Mariamman


It was said the hunter Abi bin Bengggali, stumbled upon an abandoned building on the slope of the mountain while searching for game. Intrigued, he explored the interior of the sturdy building made of belian which despite the ravage of time was still largely intact.

Inside, he discovered relics of what was clearly a Hindu temple and taking fancy of a carved wooden elephant, he took it home. It proved to be a traumatic mistake for that night his house shook violently and in his sleep Abi dreamt that he must return the statue to the temple.

Needless to say the hunter lost no time returning the statue to the temple and his strange adventure became the talk of the village. When it spread to the ears of Hindus in Kuching the mystery of the abandoned temple was quickly unraveled.

The temple was built by Indian and Ceylonese (Sri Lankans) workers recruited by the second White Rajah Charles Brooke to tend his tea and coffee plantation on the slope of the mountain.

From Sri Maha Mariamman


Some of the Indian elders in the 1960s still remembered their childhood spent in the plantation and vividly recalled their parents telling them how the workers, who arrived in 1867, using simple tools, built the temple dedicated to Sri Maha Mariamman from belian taken from the surrounding jungle.

When the temple was completed they invited a priest from India to consecrate it, possibly two or three years after their arrival. At its height, the 600 acre plantation employed more than 1000 workers who were housed in barracks nearby.

The workers were oppressed by the canganees (foremen) and managers and were poorly paid. Most of them were Hindus and to practise their religion they first built a shrine near a mountain stream. When they were more settled they set about erecting the temple which like in any Hindu community became the centre of their social and religious activities.

The Sri Maha Mariamman temple was not the only place of worship built by the workers as they also built another temple for the deity Subramaniam. Some of the workers were Catholics and they built a chapel in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These two buildings have not been located. After more than 150 years they are likely to be permanently lost to the jungle.

Due to poor management, the plantation was closed down in 1912 and the workers were given a choice to move down to Kuching to work in road construction or go back to India.

Perhaps of their bitter experience in the plantation most of the workers decided to go back to India and only 40 or 50 families decided to stay back. When they left the plantation those who chose to stay behind took the bronze statue of the deity Maha Sri Maha Mariamman with them to shrine near the Sarawak Club in Kuching.

Later they moved it to a small temple built along Batu Lintang Road. Much later a big temple dedicated to the deity was built on a piece of land at Jalan Rock and was completed in 1991. The statue was then moved there where it remains until today.

From Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, Kuching.


While the statue of the deity continued to be venerated and properly housed, the temple on the mountain was left to the elements and had it not been built of belian the whole structure would have collapsed to the ground.

Abi’s story sparked a campaign among the Hindus of Kuching to restore the temple leading to an expedition to its site in 1968. The path built during the Brookes leading to the plantation was cleared and it turned out to be a very well built small road meandering up a gentle slope.

Although the walk up to the temple is three kilometers up hill all the way, you do not have to be an Olympian to get there as the path is wide and well constructed and the gradient is gentle.

From Sri Maha Mariamman


From then on work on the renovation of the temple under the supervision of Lechamanan Ragua who is also known as R.L. Jimmy began in earnest and there were many tales of strange happenings encountered by visitors and workers involved in the repair of the temple.

Lechamanan recounted how while at work at the temple one day in 1970 he saw a cobra on the roof. Taking a stick he tried to shoo the snake away but was stopped by elders present there. The snake left after the elders entered the temple and said a few prayers.

Later the imprint of a cobra appeared on Lechamanan’s forehead and only disappeared one month later after he sought forgiveness for his impulsive act. It is believed that the snake is the guardian of the temple.

There was another story about a man who tried to take a way the doors of the temple and was blocked by the snake on his way up. He managed to get past the serpent and reached the temple where he dismantle the doors and took it down.

On the way back he was chased by the same snake and had to leave the doors behind as he fled down the mountain. The doors were never recovered but that man fell ill and went berserk when he reached home. He was only cured after he was brought up the mountain and prayers were said over him ridding him of the spirit that possessed him.

From Sri Maha Mariamman


On Dec 4, 1970 the repair works were completed and a poojai (high mass) attended by about 500 people were held to mark its restoration. Since then devotees regularly offered prayers there and it was put under the care and administration of the Kuching Hindu Temple Association Ban Hock Road.

Today the temple is again going through another major restoration and this time it is more than just repairing and repainting. The Mount Matang Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Renovation Committee under the chairmanship of Sasindran Nair is rebuilding the temple on its original site and except for minor alterations of the inner sanctum, follow its exact design.

From Sri Maha Mariamman


Like the workers of the plantation, the building committee is using belian wood from the mountain to build the temple. The Sarawak Forestry Department granted them permission to cut down five belian trees from the slope for the timber.

“This temple is the only Sri Maha Mariamman temple in the world made of timber and we want to keep that record,” said Sasindran.

Vice chairman T. Kaliani @T. Morgan who was with Sasindran inspecting the construction when I visited the site recently added, “It is difficult and expensive to bring the building materials up the mountain. We are thankful to those who contributed to the cost of the restoration so far but we need more fund to complete the job. We hope more people would come forward to help us restore the temple.”

Surprisingly many of those who prayed at the temple are Chinese who helped contribute to its upkeep through their donations. “Our appeal goes out to devotees and well wishers of other races. We are grateful to Chinese worshippers who come here to pray for their contribution and we also appeal to them to help us restore this temple.”

Morgan added the committee had engaged the services of craftsmen from India to carve the belian posts and plaster other decorations of the temple. They are expected to start work next month.

Those who wish to donate to the restoration of the ‘lost’ temple of Sri Maha Mariamman can contact Sasindran at 019-888 1837 or Morgan at 019-816 8017 for more information."

Source : The Borneo Post - Francis Chan 2007



Places of Worship & Devotion In Sarawak

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Woon Hua Kung, Batu Kawa

Woon Hua Kung, one of the many small traditional Chinese temples in the Batu Kawa area.
There are many such temples in this area, mostly built in the early Chinese settlement time, nearby to the Sarawak river tributaries, as river was the most economical & convenient means of transport during that time.
In the Batu Kawa area along, there were around 10 such early settlements in these Sarawak river tributaries.

From Woon Hua Kung, Batu Kawa




Places of Worship & Devotion In Sarawak

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Si Won Yea, Paku - Facelift 2010

Facelift for Si Won Yea at Paku, Bau; about 30km from Kuching by the old Kuching/Bau Highway.


2010 Si Won Yea
From Si Won Yea, Paku - Facelift 2010



2007 Si Won Yea
From Si Won Yea, Paku




Places of Worship & Devotion In Sarawak

Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, Kuching

One of the very few Indian Temples in Sarawak; located in Rock Road, Kuching.

From Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, Kuching.



Places of Worship & Devotion In Sarawak

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ik Lung San Thian Eng Si, Sibu - Part 1

Ik Lung San (or Jade Dragon Mountain) Thian Eng Si is one of the largest monastery or religious center in Sarawak. It is located along the Sibu/Bintulu highway, Mile 10 Oya Road, Sibu.

There are many chambers organised mostly in individual buildings within the center.

From Tian Eng Si, Jade Dragon Mountain, Oya, Sibu


Places of Worship & Devotion In Sarawak

Lu Pin Jin, Sarikei

A small temple on a hill at outskirts of Sarikei town.

From Lu Pin Jin, Sarikei


Places of Worship & Devotion In Sarawak

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Guan Gong At The Doorway, Debak.

From Lung San Temple, Debak, Betong


The Debak Lung San Temple was said to be initiated before 1930, the earlier temple was a simple hut about 2 kilometers from the current location. The history of this small town, Debak, is more than 130 years.

From Lung San Temple, Debak, Betong


Earlier on Lord Tua Pek Kong was the only host deity; Xuan Tian Shang Ti (玄天上帝) was later hosted in by devotees’ request. Guan Gong (關公) joined in recently, forming the current 3 main host deities in this temple.

From Lung San Temple, Debak, Betong


Earlier, it was said that Guan Gong or similar character was seen many times near the temple doorstep. It was later learnt that Lord Guan Gong wanted to be hosted in this temple; that was the legend how Guan Gong became the host deity of Lung San Temple in Debak.

Places of Worship & Devotion In Sarawak

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tua Pek Kong, Mukah

From Tua Pek Kong, Mukah


Extracts from the 120 Years Diamond Jubilee Souvenir Magazine of The Tai Shan Ting Tua Pek Kong Temple, Mukah...

"A Brief History of Mukah Chinese Temple

Our Mukah Chinese Temple started with a very humble beginning in the year 1879; 120 years ago. The temple was then just a simple wooden building. In those early days, the committee members of the temple also had to care for the welfare of the whole Chinese community in the district.

From Tua Pek Kong, Mukah


About 40 years later, in the year 1918, the First World War ended. The economy was gradually recovering. All those who were involved in the sago business were doing very well. Thus, a donation campaign was launched to thank Tua Pek Kong for peace, and prosperity. The committee was also hoping to raise fund to carry out more social and welfare activities.

Thus, with part of the fund collected, the first Chinese primary school in Mukah was established – SRB Chong Boon was built in 1920. Mean time, to show his gratitude, a successful local businessman, the father of the late Mr. Tan Chit Goon kindly donated his shop lot at the present No.15 Main Bazaar, Mukah to the Mukah Chinese Temple.

Unfortunately, during the Second World War, the Japanese and Allied forces bombarded and destroyed the whole Mukah town. Miraculously, the Chinese temple was spared untouched.

From Tua Pek Kong, Mukah


In 1949, the Chinese Temple shop house at No.15 was rebuilt by the tenant. The fund collected from the rental of the shop house and donations from the Chinese community was sufficient to support the activities of the temple. The temple fund was also used to maintain the Chinese cemetery, and to help the needy old folks.

In 1950, the Temple Management Board was headed by the late Captain Tan Kee Liong. There were only 4 committee members then.

Since 1976, the Temple Management Board renamed officially as ‘The Mukah Chinese Benevolent Trust Board’.

Ten years after that, the local Chinese community decided to reconstruct the Chinese temple. Thus a fund raising campaign headed by Penghulu Yong Chin sin was launched.

The committee managed to collect RM100,000 from the generous public. The government kindly contributed RM90,000. The reconstruction project started. The new temple was to be erected beside the old site, at the bank of Mukah River. The work was completed a year later.

Since 1987, a separate management board was formed to manage the activities of the Chinese temple. It is no more under the Mukah Chinese Benevolent Trust Board. An election for the Board Members is held once every 3 years.

From Tua Pek Kong, Mukah


Our Chinese temple is open to all believers and worshippers. It is not restricted to the local members only. All worshippers and believers can come to the temple at anytime to pay respect to Tua Pek Kong."

Places of Worship & Devotion In Sarawak