Photo: Exploring Wat Chaiyamangalaram.

Dhammakarama Temple and Wat Chaiyamangalaram

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Occupying opposing sides of Lorong Burma in Pulau Tikus, these two temples serve Penang’s Thai and Burmese Buddhist communities.





Dhammakarama Burmese Temple dates from the early nineteenth century when the area was settled by Burmese fishermen and farmers, and is Penang’s first Buddhist temple. The Thais followed not long after, but the large reclining Buddha for which their temple, Wat Chaiyamangalaram is renowned wasn’t constructed until much later. Both offer the visitor a gamut of Buddhist art and architecture spanning the sublime to the rather kitsch and colourful.

No, you are not in Burma. Photo taken in or around Dhammakarama Temple and Wat Chaiyamangalaram, Penang, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

No, you are not in Burma. Photo: Sally Arnold

Graded by two white elephants, Dhammakarama Temple welcomes worshippers with a beautiful filigree red and golden archway. Within, peaceful leafy grounds offer a pleasant respite to wander among the pavilions, pagodas and ponds and enjoy a little serenity. At the sublime end of the spectrum, the Sima Shrine Hall at the centre of the complex houses a number of impressive large standing Buddhas, the main one, carved of marble and cloaked in gold towering over the prayer hall, and in an annex behind, a row of smaller standing figures represent the various countries within the region who practice Buddhism.

Moving towards the back of the complex, a pond embodies colourful and kitsch. A brightly painted relief wall mural faces onto a cement lotus sitting in the centre of the pool sprouting spinning alms bowls and looking rather like a fairground game. This is in fact a depiction of Prince Siddhartha Gotama’s renunciation of worldly desires and his search for enlightenment. At the back of the temple you can climb the modern multi-storey pagoda for views over the complex and the Thai temple opposite.

Count the icons. Photo taken in or around Dhammakarama Temple and Wat Chaiyamangalaram, Penang, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

Count the icons. Photo: Sally Arnold

Across the road, Wat Chaiyamangalaram is typically Thai in style with multi-tiered roofs with curling pointed finials. The grounds here are entirely paved with little shade, giving the impression of a more stark, modern complex than its ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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How to get there
The temples are about three-and-a -half kilometres from the centre of Georgetown’s heritage area. Although it’s easily walkable, its not such a pleasant stroll as it’s along busy Jalan Burma. Rapid Buses 10, 101, 103, 104, 304 pass nearby. Also visit Kek Lok Si Temple to compare with the Chinese Buddhist style.

Dhammakarama Temple and Wat Chaiyamangalaram
17 & 24 Lorong Burma, Pulau Tikus
Mo–Su: 08:00–17:00
Admission: Free, donations welcome

Location map for Dhammakarama Temple and Wat Chaiyamangalaram

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