The annual fire-watching festival was held at the Penang Snake Temple during the 6th lunar day of the Chinese New Year this year (which was 14 February 2024). There were also various cultural performances held alongside the fire-watching ceremony, including a traditional puppet show, lion dance and fireworks.
Legend has it that the temple, dedicated to the deity Chor Soo Kong, was inhabited by venomous pit vipers centuries ago. According to folklore, these serpents, believed to be guardians of the temple, emerged from the nearby jungle and took refuge within its walls.
Kek Lok Si Temple illuminated in a dazzling array of lights during Chinese New Year. As one of Penang’s most iconic landmarks, Kek Lok Si Temple comes alive with vibrant decorations and thousands of colorful lights, creating a magical ambiance that captures the essence of the festive season.
Located in the heart of George Town, the old Kuan Yin Temple at Kapitan Keling Mosque Street is where age-old Chinese traditions come to life in a kaleidoscope of colors, scents, and sounds. On the first day of the Chinese New Year, this historic temple transforms into a bustling hub of activity as devotees and visitors alike flock to pay homage and seek blessings for the year ahead. Kuan Yin is also known as the Goddess of Mercy.
As the largest temple dedicated to Lord Murugan outside India, the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple located in the Botanical Garden (or Waterfall) area of Penang was built at a cost of approximately USD 3.1 million and took five years to complete. The staircase of 512 steps leading up to the new temple was found to be longer than the 272-step the Hindu temple in Batu Caves, Selangor. The temple complex and its hill area also houses several other Hindu shrines as well as a massive statue of Lord Shiva.
The new temple features were inspired from the South Indian Chola and Pallava eras and mainly used imported materials from India. The old temple is popularly known as the Waterfall Hill Temple or Lord Murugan Temple in the island and is also the main site of the annual Thaipusam pilgrimage.
Thaipusam scenes at the compound nearby Sri Muthu Mariamman Temple in George Town, Penang.
Thaipusam in Penang paints a vivid tapestry of religious devotion and cultural spectacle. Celebrated annually in late January or early February, this Hindu festival honors Lord Murugan with a mesmerizing procession from Georgetown to the sacred Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple atop the Waterfalls hill area.
The highlight is the iconic Silver Chariot, adorned with devotees carrying ornate kavadis, creating a symphony of traditional music and rhythmic drumbeats. The atmosphere is electric as devotees showcase their unwavering faith through acts of penance, including body piercings and elaborate decorations (also known as Kavadi bearer). Thaipusam in Penang is not only a religious event but a testament to the island’s cultural richness and the harmonious coexistence of diverse communities, offering a must-see experience for locals and tourists alike.
Union Street (or Lebuh Union) is a rear road of the old Central Police Station of George Town in Beach Street. The street was reportedly named to commemorate the Act of Union (1800) which created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801. The main Penang Maybank branch is located along this street.