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In the city of Johor Bahru in Malaysia, lies a peculiar temple.
A temple devoted to the Hindu Goddess Kali…
One that is made entirely of glass.
Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman.
Originally built in 1922 on land gifted by Sultan Ibrahim of Johor, the temple started out as a small shrine in a hut that was inherited by the current temple’s Chief Priest Sri Sinnathamby Sivasamy in 1991.
Story has it that Sivasamy was inspired during a trip to Bangkok. One night when he was riding in a tuk-tuk, he saw a bright light shining about 2 kilometres away.
When he asked the driver where the light was coming from, the tuk-tuk driver informed him that it was coming from a Wat (Buddhist Temple).
The driver then took the priest to the temple and upon arriving did the priest realize that it was the glass artwork at the entrance of the temple that was shining.
Amazed at how far he was able to see it, this inspired him to create a similar effect in his own temple.
So, in 2008 he began work to completely cover the interior of his temple in mosaic glass tiles and finished it in October 2009. The project cost over 2 million Malaysian Ringgit (almost 500,000 US) and was made with imported glass from Belgium, Japan and Thailand.
There are over 300,000 pieces of glass tiles arranged in geometric patterns, with the colors being red, blue, yellow, green, purple and white.
And the place is a curious sight to behold.
With crystal chandeliers illuminating the temple and the light bouncing around, it’s like walking into a diamond with every corner of the interior shining and sparkling. Like a beautiful and strange, elaborate house of mirrors.
Inside there is an area to worship Kali herself, along with other statues of Shiva, Ganesha and Brahma.
And interestingly, there are also statues of the Buddha, Mother Teresa, Jesus Christ and Guru Nanak, which I suspect is to evoke a sense of religious tolerance, peace and appreciation.
Nicely done, Sivasamy.
Who is Kali?
In Hinduism, Kali, also known as Kalika, (meaning the “Black One”) is the Mother of the Universe and the destroyer of evil forces.
Kali is usually represented as a terrifying warrioress with four arms holding a bloody knife and a severed head, and wearing a necklace of other severed heads or skulls and a skirt of arms.
The knife that she holds signifies divine knowledge and the decapitated head represents the death of the human ego, which is necessary to attain Moksha, or liberation, from Samsara, the neverending cycle of death and rebirth.
Kali also represents Time, Death and Doomsday but is also considered a strong mother figure and a symbol of motherly love. (Mothers…).
Where is Johor Bahru?
Johor Bahru, also known as JB, is located on the southern tip of the Malaysian Peninsula along the straits of Johor next to Singapore. At 220 sq. km and with a population of almost half a million, it is Malaysia’s 9th largest city.
Johor Bahru has some attractions other than the Kali Ma Temple such as the Johor Bahru Chinese Heritage Center, Johor Art Gallery and Plaza Seni (an Arts Center).
Along with this there are also a number of malls in the city to be found, such as the KSL, JB City Square, Paradigm Mall and R&F Mall.
Many people do tend to skip Johor Bahru and opt to go straight to Malacca or Kuala Lumpur, and perhaps for good reason.
Johor Bahru isn’t exactly a city geared towards tourism and the city itself is notorious for it’s high crime rate which has been the country’s worst in the past several decades.
Some of the more common offenses are: Robberies, snatch theft, carjacking, sexual assault and kidnapping, with gang and unarmed robberies accounting for 76% of it’s crime. Car cloning is also a big thing in JB.
I, for sure as hell didn’t.
To be honest, I only learned about the city’s infamous crime rate and somewhat sleazy reputation afterwards when I did some research on it in Kuala Lumpur.
That being said.
Don’t let that discourage you.
I was there for 3 nights and had no problems whatsoever and I’m sure you won’t either.
So, if you DO plan on visiting Johor Bahru, just remember to practice some common sense, don’t stray around too far at night and always be mindful of your surroundings.
Do all these things and you should be alright, you adventurer you.
How to get to Johor Bahru
From Singapore you can go to the Queen Street bus station and purchase a bus ticket to Johor Bahru for about a $1 and it’ll take you to the Johor Bahru Sentral bus station, which takes about an hour.
You can also fly into Johor Bahru through the Senai International Airport which is 32 km northwest of the city.
If you do take the bus from Singapore, you will have to disembark at the border and go through Malaysian Customs and Immigration. After you’re stamped into the country you then have to jump on another shuttle bus that will take you to JB Sentral.
Easy Peasy, Lemon squeezy.
As for the Visa requirements, most countries either get 90 days or 30 days visa-free travel throughout Malaysia, but double check the requirements for your respective country before entering.
Americans, Canadians and Europeans all get 90 days visa-free.
Crazy good. I know.
I know this post is about the Kali Ma Temple and Johor Bahru but…
If you are visiting Singapore with plans on visiting Malaysia and are limited on time, I would actually suggest skipping Johor Bahru all together and go directly to either Malacca or Kuala Lumpur and then Georgetown, as these places are full of history, attractions and have a vibrant nightlife.
Johor Bahru just isn’t a touristy place.
To be quite honest, I did not run into a single foreigner there during my stay.
(Which is totally ok with me.)
Yet, if you are an advocate of slow travel (like myself), then by all means visit Johor Bahru as you make your way through Malaysia. Check out the curious Kali Temple, try some Malaysian food and perhaps discover some other hidden gems. That being said, 2 nights are enough.
Kali Temple Visiting Hours
Daily: Open from 7am to 10pm, yet visiting hours for tourists are from 1pm-5pm.
Entrance Fee: RM10 ($2.34) per person for Foreign Visitors. A small donation is always welcome and encouraged.
Address: 22 Lorong 1, Jalan Tebrau, Johor Bahru
And there you have it guys!
If you liked this post or just want to say hi, don’t be shy and drop me a line!
Also, if you’ve been anywhere cool in Malaysia or anywhere in general, I’d love to hear from you!