Our visit to Penang’s Kek Lok Si Temple was not over yet. Just to recap… This is the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. It consists of a maze of pavilions, manicured gardens, courtyards and at least ten thousand Buddha statues all set in a spiritual location in the hills above Penang. Construction began in 1890: It was opened in 1910. In the previous episode of musings, we had walked about half way down the hill through the complex, but there was much more to see. So let’s walk on!
We walked into yet another pavilion. I looked for some different photo opportunities, ones that many people miss when going through such an overwhelming temple complex.
This Buddha is backed by the rays of a symbolic sun.
He’s protected by a large glass case – with nasty reflections! but the incense smoke adds some interest to the photo. I’d love to know what the inscription reads.
These wall tiles depict the sacred lotus flower… a powerful Buddhist symbol.
Small elephants parade around this ceiling cornice.
Smoke patterns from incense sticks.
Intricate bronze relief.
Patterns on a large bronze pot.
As I mentioned before, there are many different deities in this temple complex. This grand fellow, coated in much gold, is protected behind glass… hence the reflections.
“Good” triumphant over “evil”.
This happy, fat Buddha brings a smile to everyone’s face. He’s also kept behind glass and is surrounded by intricate gold patterns and highly decorated poles.
A many armed deity; an upper hand holds a ship’s wheel symbol. The lower hands show the gesture of banishing or warding off evil (karana). The front arms are held in the gesture of prayer. There seem to be four different faces, one facing each of the four points of the compass, under a crown which includes a small Buddha. A horse’s head tops the lot. Perhaps this deity is meant to ward off dangers for sailors and for travellers.
A beautiful example of the pink form of Torch Ginger (Etlingera elatior).
Torch Ginger (Etlingera elatior); the more common red form.
A line of Buddhas protected by an ornate colonnade.
Looking back up through the gardens and pavilions to the Statue of Guanyin.
Looking further down the hill and out to the city of Penang.
A trio of Buddhas.
Note the swastika over the heart of this statue. It’s an ancient religious symbol dating back 3000 years. It was a highly auspicious talisman, evoking thoughts of reverence, good fortune, and well being. The question is often asked: “How did such an auspicious and truly noble symbol come to represent tyrannical oppression and racial genocide; perhaps one of the greatest paradoxes of world history.” Hitler’s German swastika is reversed and turned 45º from the vertical.
In 1930, this seven storey Pagoda of the Ten Thousand Buddhas,”Ban Po Thar”, was added. It has a Chinese octagonal base, a middle tier of Thai design, and a spiral crowning dome that is Burmese in style. This pagoda reflects the combination of Mahayana Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism and traditional Chinese rituals that blend into a harmonious whole at this temple complex.
We walked on down through more garden terraces, and endless shops at every level selling all sorts of religious paraphernalia, until we came to the end of this fascinating visit to the Kek Lok Si Temple. We took a cable hauled funicular back down to the town.
But we were not done with temples yet! More anon.
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