Heritage of Malaysia – Places of Worship

By: Thomas Teo

Kuala Lumpur is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world – a melting pot of different races and religion. Kuala Lumpur is also know as heritage of Malaysia. 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

This 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 in 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.

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.

Nearby hotel: Pacific Express Boutique Hotel


St John’s Cathedral (Catholic)

St John’s is amongst the most beautiful places of worship in Kuala Lumppur, 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.

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.

Nearby hotels: The Maple Suite, Pacific Regency Hotel Suites


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

Nearby hotel: Pacific Express Boutique Hotel

Taoist & Confucian

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. Dedicated 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.

Nearby hotel: Pacific Express Boutique Hotel


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.

Nearby hotel: Pacific Express Boutique Hotel


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 polic 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.

Nearby hotel: Pacific Express Boutique Hotel

All the places of worship listed welcome visitors – so long as they behave with respect. The heritage of Malaysia is really special and hardly seen at other country.