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After lunch we headed to the Buddhist Maha Vihara, located along Jalan Berhala in Brickfields or fondly known as Little India – for the large Indian community residing the area and many authentic Indian restaurants and Saree shops.
The Wesak Day festival atmosphere here was much more vibrant than what we had experienced earlier in the morning. As Jeremy and I walked towards the temple, road shoulders were occupied by peddlers selling traditional cakes, cold beverages, traditional Indian ornaments and clothes, balloons, audio CDs, etc. Music filled the air accompanied by accasional loud honks from vehicles avoiding pedestrians to and from the Buddhist temple along the long narrow road.
We reached the gates of the temple which was built during the British occupation in early 20th century. The old sturdy gates – more than 100 years old and originated from Liverpool – graciously welcomed us in to the view of a lotus pond at the entrance.
The crowd here was massive and the best part was it consists of people from multi-ethnic and multi-cultural background. There were locals; Chinese and Indian community, European tourists, Sri Lankan, Burmese, Nepalese, Indian who are working in Malaysia. The temple ground was packed with crowd patiently lining up to get blessings from the monks or waiting to get into the main shrine for prayers.
We took shade from the hot mid-day sun under the Bodhi Tree. The scene of Buddha attaining enlightenment was recreated with a huge marble statue of Buddha in his meditating posture under the tree. It is said one of the trees were brought from Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, India. The rest was its sampling. Nearby, there’s a Buddha Gallery where statues of Buddha which was donated from the world over kept for display. One should not miss to step into the gallery as its collection of various form of Buddha is very interesting. Shoes are not allowed inside.
Fans which sprout out chilled water were placed at strategic places to give break to the devotees from hot spell – which I enjoyed for a short moment as I walked pass it. Smoke from incense was intense and flower offering to the monks was smooth amidst the huge crowd. Many volunteers spend their time and energy to make the sacred event a success – kudos to them!
As such, my friend Ee Lin was one of them. She is a devotee at Maha Vihara and she had spent her time volunteering on the eve and on Wesak Day – preparing food for visitors and devotees. I planned to join her but I could not make it this time. I shall volunteer in upcoming years if opportunity arises. Following are some pix from Ee Lin on beautiful floats paraded around Brickfields later that night.
Each year in the month of May a very special day marks the calendar of Malaysia and this day is observed as a public holiday…No, it’s not Labour Day but Wesak Day. Over the years I having been enjoying Wesak Day purely as a holiday and shame to say never made any effort to visit temples and take part in the festival – the most important day for the Buddhist community.
Wesak Day marks the Birth, Enlightenment and Death of Buddha. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the fourth lunar month. Devotees throng the temples throughout the country to pay homage to the Enlightened One.
Yes, I’ve been to Buddhist temples – Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple where the sleeping Buddha resides and the remarkable Kek Lok Si Temple with Pagoda in Penang but never on a Wesak Day.
So, this year my friend Jeremy and I visited two of the popular Buddhist Temples around Kuala Lumpur on Wesak Day – Thai Buddhist Chetawan Temple in Petaling Jaya and the Buddhist Maha Vihara located in Little India Brickfields.
Our first stop was the Chetawan Temple in Petaling Jaya. Its location is just a short distance away from Taman Jaya LRT (Light Rail Transit) Station along Jalan Pantai, Off Jalan Gasing – appx. 10min on foot. I arrived at the station from Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station earlier than Jeremy who drove there from home. As I was waiting, I spotted Malaysia’s first Drive-In Fast Food Restaurant – I remember as a kind I had spent some time there drinking the best root beer in town with my dad.
Jeremy arrived and we walked to the temple which was located amidst residential houses. The sight was to behold as the temple decorated with gold paint was so beautiful. Intricately designed in Thailand Buddhist architecture style, this huge temple amazingly stands out of its surrounding. Now by 9am, temple ground was filled with devotees paying their alms to Buddha. The scene was relatively quiet but progressing with many rites by the devotees.
The place is divided into the main temple, a smaller one just opposite the main and at the corner is a small Wat for safekeeping donations (in the form of smaller Buddha statues) from devotees. An eye-catching moment for us was the placing of alms by devotees in small pots lined up in a semi-circle. Notes changed into bags of coins at a readily available counter and believers place one coin in each pot and strike a bell as they progress along the line. This is repeated until the final pot where all the balance coins emptied in it. It is believed this act brings good luck.
The respect to the place by the devotees was amazing. I truly enjoyed the peace and calm ambiance amongst the people in the temple ground 🙂 We walked to the back of the temple before heading to the main shrine which required us to climb up a fleet of stairs. At the back is the dining area where morning breakfast was generously served – all vegetarian food. Some of the food was donated and some were sold. They were fresh and tasty looking but we opt not to have our breakfast there as the queue was long. Further back was the kitchen and I spotted volunteers cooking rice to be served for lunch and some ladies preparing dishes.
One interesting fact of this place as I clearly noticed at the kitchen (the ladies working were all Thais) is the temple was built for the small Thai community in the area. It is said King of Thailand even donated a sum for the construction of the temple. Interesting!
The main shrine was full of activities. Bathing of Buddha was one of the main ceremonies of the day – it reminds Buddhists of the need to purify the mind from greed, lead noble lives and practice morality and kindness. Statues of Buddha accepting donations in a straight line was a favourite subject of the many photographers thronged that morning – including photo seekers like myself and Jeremy.
Then inside main building, devotees were deep in prayer and paid offering to the temple monks. Many offering were present such as flowers, joss-sticks and for the monks the holy robes and food while accepting blessings. Buddhism highlights that just as flowers wither and die and joss sticks burns away, so too life – temporary. Shoes not allowed inside the main shrine.
There were also many oil lamps which will be lighted with a little donation. It signifies Buddha’s enlightenment. At the gate exiting the temple, we noted there we peddlers with caged birds to be released for a sum to symbolize giving freedom and release from past sins.
As we exited the beautiful place, we were hungry and headed for a drink at A&W nearby after tirelessly capturing 45minutes of religious scenes. We headed to Brickfields after lunch to the Buddhist Maha Vihara which I’ll cover in my next posting. Cheers!