White pillars rose from the intricately carpeted marble floor of the Kapitan Keling Mosque, moving upwards and tapering off into a flourish of concrete leaves and ivys. Horseshoe arches connected the pillars together, and on their apex, a plaque of King Edward VII rests. The architecture—a combination of Muslim, Indian, Classical and English—was both disconcerting and very interesting at the same time.
|MASJID KAPITAN KELING’S FACADE IN PENANG|
Visiting the Kapitan Keling Mosque wasn’t really part of our plan, but Penang’s extremely hot weather made us scurry towards its shaded halls for a quick respite from the heat. From the outside, the mosque—or masjid, as the Malays call their temples—looks interesting enough, with bulbous grey and copper domes and minaret jutting off against the clear blue skies of the city. Except for a few in Melaka and the Manila Muslim Temple, we haven’t really visited these kinds of worship places before.
|THE MINARET, SEPARATED BY A FEW METERS FROM THE MAIN TEMPLE|
A temple attendant greeted us as we took shelter under the high-ceilinged outer halls of the mosque. Apparently, guests have to suit up in the traditional thobe robe-garb (and hijab headwear for women) before entering its interiors. But even as such, visitors are only allowed up to a certain part of the massjid, the worship hall is off limits to tourists, unless you’re a Muslim, that is. With my name, you’d never even have to ask what my religion is, lol. For women, those with their time of the month are totally not allowed inside the temple; that’s their rule, we’re only visitors, we follow suit.
|OUTER HALLS OF KAPITAN KELING MOSQUE|
Unlike Thailand’s Buddhist temples or even Catholic churches, the interiors of a masjid is devoid of any religious images. Their religious law, which I guess is written on their holy book, the Koran, forbids any images of man and animals to be depicted on the temple walls. In fact, you’d hardly see any ornamentation inside at all except for patterned geometric shapes and plaques of King Edward VII, UK’s ruler during Penang’s colonial period.
|SPARSE, BUT ELEGANT INTERIORS|
Masjid Kapitan Keling, literally translated, means the captain of the Keling people mosque, Keling being people with Indian descent in Malaysia (the term is now considered to be discriminatory, by the way). It was built in the 19th century by Cauder Mohuddeen Merican, the Kapitan Kling, the mosque’s founder and the then leader of the Tamil Muslim community in Penang.
|KAPITAN KELING TEMPLES IS USED FOR PRAYERS FIVE TIMES DAILY|
He brought in builders, and even temple stones, all the way from India, infusing both Indian and Muslim architecture in the design. It is the first established Muslim institution in the area and it is often told of Muslim Indians going to Penang that this place is the first thing they visit when they land in the city. Well, we really weren’t Indians nor Muslims, but I guess this temple is indeed a good place to start an extensive Georgetown tour.
Kapitan Keling Mosque
Address: Jalan Buckingham, Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Contact Number: (+60) 14-812-1752
Entrance Fee: None
Open Hours: 1:00PM - 5:00PM Saturday to Thursday
3:00PM - 5:00PM Fridays
GPS Coordinates Map: 5.416890, 100.337134