PLACE OF WORSHIP

Kuala Lumpur is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world - a melting pot of different races and religions. Through this incredible diversity has come a tolerance which unites KL’s various people. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the hundreds of different places of worship which grace the city. The same small neighbourhood can have a Muslim mosque, a Hindu shrine, a Christian church, a Chinese temple, and a Sikh gurdwara, all within a few hundred metres of each other. And every month of the year sees at least one major religious festival, each with its own customs and rituals.

NATIONAL MOSQUE OF MALAYSIA (MASJID NEGARA)

The striking building has been the most important mosque in Malaysia, since it was officially opened in 1965. Built out of reinforced concrete, Masjid Negara was designed to embody the aspirations of newly-independent Malaysia. The main white body of the structure is topped by a brightly coloured cantilevered roof and one towering minaret. Major renovations is 1987 saw the roof colour change from pink, to the green and blue of today. The mosque can accommodate 15,000 worshippers at a time.

LOCATION:  JALAN LEMBAH PERDANA

FEDERAL TERRITORY MOSQUE (MASJID WILAYAH PERSEKUTUAN)

This mosque is an attractive mix of different styles, from both Malaysia, and much further afield. It pays particular homage to the classic Islamic architecture of the Ottoman Empire, most notably the 16th century Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Situated on a verdant hill, it boasts 22 domes of different sizes, and two towering minarets. The mosque, which opened in late 2000, can accommodate 17,000 worshippers at a time. It’s name comes from Kuala Lumpur’s status as one of Malaysia’s three Federal Territories 

LOCATION:  JALAN DUTA

JAMEK MOSQUE (MASJID JAMEK)

One of the most charming historic buildings in Kuala Lumpur, Masjid Jamek was officially opened by the Sultan of Selangor in 1909. It was built in a hybrid style of architecture which originated in British India, known as Indio-Saracenic. The mosque was designed by Arthur Benison Hubbock, an Englishman responsible for many of Malaysia’s colonial-era architectural gems. It is sited at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers, where Kuala Lumpur was founded as a tin mining settlement in 1857.

LOCATION:  JALAN TUN PERAK

JAMEK MOSQUE, KAMPONG BHARU (MASJID JAMEK KAMPONG BHARU)

Founded in 1924, this attractive mosque has been the focal point of the surrounding Malay community ever since. The understated structure is enlivened by bursts of coulour from brightly coloured Islamic tiling. Despite the name - Kampong Bharu means New Village in Malay - this is probably the most traditional area of Kuala Lumpur. The streets around the mosque are filled with Malay wooden houses, a major contrast to the modern high-rise buildings nearby KLCC.

LOCATION: JALAN RAJA ALANG, KAMPONG BHARU

INDIA MOSQUE (MASJID INDIA)

A mosque has stood on this site since 1863, just six years after Kuala Lumpur was founded. Over the decades, the original wooden structure underwent several renovations and extensions, before making way for a completely new building in 1964. A major face-lift in 2002, saw the addition of a polished granite exterior, to the three-storey onion domed structure. Throughout its history, this mosque has predominantly served the needs of ethnic Indian Muslims, which is reflected in the architectural style.

LOCATION:  JALAN MASJID INDIA

SZE YA ( SIN SZE SI YA) TEMPLE

This ornate, beautiful Taoist temple was established in 1864, and moved to its present site two decades later, making it one of the oldest places of worship in Kuala Lumpur. It was founded by Yap Ah Loy, the third and most powerful Kapitan Cina - effectively the head of the city’s Chinese community. Sze Ya Temple is unique in Malaysia for being primarily dedicated to two local men, who were deified after their deaths, rather than traditional Gods from China.

LOCATION: LEBOH PUDU

WEI ZHEN GONG GUAN YIN SI

Right next door to Maharajalela Monorail station is this hidden gem, a Buddhist temple, dedicated to the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin (Kuan Yin), Guan Yin is a hugely popular deity amongst East and South East Asians, whether they be Buddhists, Confucianists or Taosits. This pretty little place, which was built in the late 19th century, is particularly associated with the Hokkien community. Many less visited than it deserves, it can easily combined with Chan See Shu Yuen Temple.

LOCATION:  JALAN MAHARAJALELA

THEAN HOU TEMPLE

Set on hill with commanding views over Kuala Lumpur, this six-tiered temple is a syncretic mix of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. The elaborate architecture marries modern techniques with traditional styles. Amongst the largest Chinese temples in South East Asia, it has been thronged with worshippers and tourists since opening in 1989. As well as Thean Hou, the Heavenly Mother, its principal deities are Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, and Shui Wei Sheng Niang, the Goddess of the Waterfront.

LOCATION: PERSIARAN ENDAH, TAMAN PERSIARAN DESA

BUDDHIST MAHA VIHARA

This large Buddhist complex was founded in 1894, to serve the needs of Kuala Lumpur’s newly arrived Ceylonese community, many of whom lived in the Brickfields area. Over the years it has developed into one of Malaysia’s leading centres of Theravada Buddhism. Among the highlights are the Shrine Hall, which dates back to the temple’s foundation, the International Buddhist Pagoda and two sacred Bodhi trees. The Maha Vihara is especially atmospheric during Wesak, the holiest Buddhist festival of the year.

LOCATION: JALAN BERHALA, BRICKFIELDS

CHAN SEE SHU YUEN TEMPLE

Chan See Shu Yuen Temple is probably Kuala Lumpur’s most attractive Chinese clan house. When it opened its doors in 1906, its main purpose was to provide help for newly arrived immigrants from China, specifically those from the extended Chan clan. These days it is a Buddhist place of worship open to all. It is best known for its intricate carvings, showing stories from Chinese legends, and for its exterior tiles, from which it gets its informal name, the Green Temple.

LOCATION: JALAN STADIUM, CITY CENTRE

KUAN TI (GUAN TI) TEMPLE

Sandwiched between two modern buildings, this small Taoist temple, is amongst the oldest and most characterful places of worship in Kuala Lumpur. Dedicate to Kuan Ti (Guan Ti), the God of War and Literature. It was completed in 1888. The temple is “guarded” by two stone lions, which flank the outer entrance, and then by two Door Gods. A statue of Kuan Ti sits on the main altar, while other deities, including those associated with Buddhism and Confucianism, are also honoured. 

LOCATION: JALAN TUN HS LEE, CHINATOWN

ST JOHN’S CATHEDRAL (CATHOLIC)

St John’s is amongst the most beautiful places of worship in Kuala Lumpur, thanks to its elegant, understated architecture. Inside the twin-towered stone structure, the whitewashed walls, and clean lines, are complemented by the colourful stained glass windows. Although the present building was only consecrated in 1962, a simple wooden Catholic church of the same was built on this site in 1883. From those humble beginnings, St John’s Cathedral is now the seat of the Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur.

LOCATION: JALAN BUKIT NANAS, BUKIT NANAS

ST ANDREW’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

With its white walls, brown roofs, and lush tropical gardens, St Andrew’s counts as one of the most attractive churches in Kuala Lumpur. The present structure dates back to 1918, from which time the surrounding area has changed almost beyond recognition. St Andrew’s has endured much during its life, from flooding to wartime looting, but thanks to sympathetic renovations, its original character still shines through. Once an overwhelmingly European church, these days Malaysians outnumber expatriates in the congregation. 

LOCATION: JALAN RAJA CHULAN

ST MARY’S CATHEDRAL (ANGLICAN)

Set on the edge of Merdeka Square, St Mary’s would not look out of place as a rural parish church in England. It was consecrated in the 1894, to serve the needs of the small Anglican community in Kuala Lumpur. That colonial-era may be long gone now, but there remain plenty of echoes of bygone times in this pretty Gothic-style church. St Mary’s is now the seat of the Anglican Bishop of West Malaysia, and has a thriving multi-cultural congregation.

LOCATION: JALAN RAJA, MERDEKA SQUARE

WESLEY METHODIST CHURCH

Wesley Methodist Church was first consecrated in 1917, after a twenty-year fundraising and building effort. A new wing was added to the original sanctuary in the 1950s, and a further extension was completed in 1997. The congregation is now 2,000-strong, a far cry from the early days, when there were just four founding members. Since the original plot of land was bought, the area around has developed massively, making for a stark contrast between the quaint church and its surroundings.

LOCATION: JALAN WESLEY, CHINATOWN

EVANGELICAL ZION LUTHERAN CHURCH

This small church was established in 1924 to serve the needs of Lutherans from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is located a few hundred metres from where Kuala Lumpur’s first Tamil Lutheran service was held in 1907. Now one of 20 congregations, within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Malaysia, Sunday services are carried out in both Tamil and English. The building itself is a modest, yet attractive structure, which has not been substantially altered since its foundation.

LOCATION: JALAN SULTAN ABDUL SAMAD, BRICKFIELDS

SRI KANDASWAMY KOVIL

One of Kuala Lumpur’s oldest and most characterful places of worship, Sri Kandaswamy Kovil was founded at the turn of the 20th century. Its original purpose was to serve the local community of Tamil Hindus from Ceylon (Sri Lanka), many of whom still live in Brickfields. The temple is dedicated primarily to Lord Murugan, the most popular deity among Tamils, but falls within the broad Shaiva tradition. It is widely acknowledged as the second most important Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur.

LOCATION: LORONG SCOTT, OFF JALAN SCOTT, BRICKFIELDS

COURT HILL SRI GANESAR (KORTUMALAI VINAYAGAR) TEMPLE

Generally considered the third most important Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur, this atmospheric place began its life in 1897 as a simple shrine in a British colonial official’s garden. A sacred Bael tree remains from those early days. The temple is dedicated to Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God who is worshipped as a “remover of obstacles”. It was for many years located near the High Court, making it a popular place to pray for a favourite outcome in court cases.

LOCATION: JALAN PUDU LAMA

SRI MAHA MARIAMMAN TEMPLE

A temple of the same was founded on this site in 1883, although the current structure largely dates from the late 1960s. Its most impressive feature is the five-tier gopuram (tower), carved in the south Indian style, with more than 200 brightly coloured figures. The temple houses the silver chariot and statue of Lord Murugan, which play a central role in the Thaipusam festival. Sri Maha Mariamman is generally thought of as the most important Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur.

LOCATION: JALAN HS TUN LEE, CHINATOWN

GURDWARA SAHIB POLIS

One of Kuala Lumpur’s more unusual places of worship, this temple was built by the British colonial authorities in 1898 to cater specifically to Sikh police officers. At the time it was built, roughly half of the police force of the Federated Malay States was Sikh. The simple blue and white single storey structure has barely changed since then, unlike the local police force, which is now overwhelmingly Malay. Approximately 200 Sikh families worship at the temple these days.

LOCATION: JALAN BALAI POLIS, OFF PETALING STREET, CHINATOWN

GURU NANAK DARBAR TATT KHALSA DIWAN SELANGOR

The largest Sikh place of worship in South East Asia, this modern structure can seat 1,500 worshippers at one time. Although a Gurdwara Sahib (Sikh temple) has stood on this site since 1924, the present building only dates back to 2002. In terms of design however the temple harks back to the classical Sikh architecture of the 16th century. The Central Dome takes its inspiration from the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the most holy Sikh place of worship in the world.

LOCATION: JALAN RAJA ALANG

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