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We know that one of the best places to learn more about a country’s culture are in churches, mosques and temples. It is like having front seats in a live theatre where you may observe how locals live their lives and practice their faith and religious beliefs.

For non-practitioners of a particular religion, these experiences may offer a colourful visit, made even meaningful by their educational value. (We usually google to know more if the visuals present some questions.)

More interestingly, these holy edifices house works of art that dates back from time immemorial. They are on the walls, the ceilings, the floors, the contingent furnitures & decors. Art is in the feelings and emotions that were evoked among people, by just being there. It’s etched on their faces, and in the way they call upon their Maker to grant their prayers.

WE WENT TO THE EDGE OF KUALA LUMPUR’S CHINATOWN IN JALAN BANDAR TO VISIT THE SRI MAHA MARIAMMAN TEMPLE, the city’s oldest (1873) Hindu temple. We found an unfortunate story waiting there.

There was a Caucasian couple with a cute little daughter, maybe age 5. The mother was readying to take her photos, directing the child to stand in front of a deity’s statue and she did. She also directed her to put her stuffed teddy bear BESIDE the statue and she did.

From out of nowhere came a big Hindu man (he had a broom and cleaning rag in his hand), shouting at the little girl to remove herself from the area. “Get out of there, you have no respect!”

The mother, although she appeared taken aback, still held on to her camera and shouted back at the man, “But she is just a little girl!” The father just stood there looking at the Hindu man while his wife continues to argue with the latter, as if she was expecting to get a pass.

Nobody thought of the little girl who appeared shaken, clueless and afraid of what was going on. She stood there crying, while her mother fights for what she thinks is right. I had the urge to scoop her up to comfort her but kept myself from doing so.

We stepped out of the scene that was easily concluded with the family exiting the temple, the imposing figure of the caretaker behind them.

How can the parents be right? We are all visitors there, and people of the temple were offended by how their deity was regarded. What would you feel if you are a person working for a Catholic church and one of the visitors put an object beside the statue of Mary or Jesus while taking photos? Wouldn’t you feel that the holiness of your church is disrespected, too?

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To findout more about Sri Maha Mariamman, check: http://www.kuala-lumpur.ws/attractions/sri-mahamariamman-temple.htm

Photos courtesy of our son, Andrei Karlo V. Cordero.

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