Penang Isle: Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani (The Waterfall Hilltop Temple)

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 2024 in Penang

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.

Penang Street Art (A Thaipusam Art Mural)

A large art mural painted on the side wall of a building along Chulia Street in George Town. The mural depicts a scene of Hindu tradition, which is a celebration of Thaipusam. It is also located not far from Penang’s Little India area.

Thaipusam Festival: Sri Mahamariamman Temple

The Sri Mahamariamman Temple on the Thaipusam evening. The Sri Mahamariamman Temple is one of the oldest Hindu temples in George Town and is located in Penang’s Little India along Queen Street.

Thaipusam Festival

During the Thaipusam festival, the breaking of the coconuts is a ritual practiced by Hindus as an act of cleansing and also to symbolize the renounce of one’s ego at the feet of the presiding deity Lord Muruga (usually carried on a chariot). The most notable or intriguing scene from this festival is the kavadi-bearers, devotees who usually had their bodies pierced while undergoing a pilgrimage during the festival.

Penang Thaipusam

Pre-Covid scenes from the Penang Thaipusam festival held in 2019.

During the festival, the breaking of the coconuts is a ritual practiced by Hindus as an act of cleansing and also to symbolize the renounce of one’s ego at the feet of the presiding deity Lord Muruga (usually carried on a chariot). The most notable or intriguing scene from this festival is the kavadi-bearers, devotees who usually had their bodies pierced while undergoing a pilgrimage during the festival.

Thaipusam this year is on 18 January.

Penang Thaipusam: Scenes from the Festival

Scenes from the Penang Thaipusam festival. During the festival, the breaking of the coconuts is a ritual practiced by Hindus as an act of cleansing and also to symbolize the renounce of one’s ego at the feet of the presiding deity Lord Muruga (usually carried on a chariot).