Originally built in 1873 as a private shrine of the Pillai family from India, the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple is Malaysia’s oldest Hindu temple. The original attap structure, sited somewhere near the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, was demolished sometime between 1885 and 1887; and a new shrine was erected at the present site on Jalan Tun HS Lee in Chinatown. The temple doors were open to the public in the late 1920s. A board of trustees then took over the temple’s management.
The temple’s interior features several altars with statues of Hindu gods including that of Lord Subramaniam. It also houses the ornate silver chariot, which is taken out from a vault during the annual Thaipusam festival, to ferry Lord Subramaniam to the Batu Caves.
The temple’s unique feature is that it is laid out in the form of a reclining human body, with the head pointing to the west and the feet to the east. The feet are represented by a five-tiered gopuram (entrance gate) decorated with 228 intricately carved statues of Hindu deities. An extensive renovation in 1960 has added gold and precious stones while Spanish and Italian tiles were added to the gopuram.