The light, falling through colored glass, the singular forms of the architecture, unite to give a silent image of that infinite mystery which the soul forever feels, and never comprehends. ~ Madame de Stael ~
Madame de Stael clearly wasn’t speaking about this temple, as she died in Paris in 1817, but her words certainly apply. Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple is probably the best reason to visit Johor Bahru and is its shining star. Tours are offered all the way from Singapore to see it, and it is across the street from our hotel. Opened in 2010, it is the first glass temple in the world. It started as a simple shelter on land presented by the Sultan of Johor in 1922.
Guru Bhagawan Sittar had the inspiration to embellish and remodel the temple on a trip to Thailand. While riding in a local open-air tuk-tuk, a gleaming object ahead caught his eye, and he asked the driver to take him there. It was glass artwork on a temple that he had seen, over a mile away! He was determined to likewise use glass in the temple in Johor Bahru…oh, and did he ever. Light from crystal chandeliers is reflected on the walls, doors, ceiling, and floors. Upon entering, the first views are dizzying and stunning. We read that at least 90 percent of the temple is embellished with 300,000 pieces of red, green, blue, yellow, and purple glass mosaics, Rudraksha beads from Nepal. We can’t dispute that number (since it is on Wikipedia!), but it seems to us that there are millions of pieces of glass. One column alone has to have tens of thousands of tiny mosaics, so…. At any rate, it took our breath away.
It is a Hindu temple, and in addition to Hindu gods, there are figures from other religions, including Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity. The third photo shows a statue of Mother Teresa. The Guru believed that all of these people were messengers of God, and wanted to include them to exhibit the “Malaysian spirit” of unity with the world. In one of the photos can be seen gold statues near the ceiling. They represent the cycle of life: birth, youth, adulthood, old age, death.
At a quick glance, the walls seem to have an embossed texture. Each Rudraksha bead was hand-imbedded in the walls with a chanted prayer. It is an extraordinary place to visit, a feeling of a most sacred space. The last two photos show our first glimpses of the temple, after walking down a lonely side road and seeing it in front of us….the beautiful exterior of the temple and the massive embellished front doors. It is a place to remember, and has made Johor Bahru very special for us.