MALAYSIA, March 18, 2013 (Khabar Southasia): Planning the first Hindu temple in Putrajaya has required patience, perseverance and faith on the part of Kanagaraja Raman, president of the Federal Territories Maha Mariamman Devasthanam Devotees Association. Submission plans alone cost the association RM 180,000 ($58,000). According to Kanagaraja, they were rejected three times due to their initial failure to meet requirements for building height, built-up area, fire safety, sewerage, facilities for the disabled, among other reasons.
Before Malaysia began developing its gleaming new administrative city in 1999, the area - about 15.5 miles south of Kuala Lumpur - was known as Prang Besar and home to vast palm oil estates. Clearing the plantations meant demolishing some 15 Hindu temples built by plantation workers, predominantly ethnic Indian Malaysians, who make up about 8% of the country's population.
It took seven years before Kanagaraja got the nod in September 2012 from Putrajaya Corporation, an agency under the Ministry of Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing. The only hurdle remaining is funding for the temple's construction, estimated at RM 9m ($2.9m). So far, devotees have pledged RM 200,000 ($64,500). A fundraising drive, scheduled to kick off later this month, will hopefully raise more. There are hopes the federal government will also chip in.
Five of the temples pooled their compensation monies and built the new Sri Mahamariamman Temple, completed in 2011, in Taman Permata, Dengkil, located 8 miles away from Putrajaya. But according to Kanagaraja, a plot for a new Hindu house of worship was included in Putrajaya's development blueprint. And the proposed temple site sits amidst a green landscape of plots allocated for churches and Chinese temples that are still empty.
The Hindu community is confident of its right to a temple in the seat of government in Muslim Malaysia. A letter of support bearing 200 signatures from the Hindu community sits on Kanagaraja's desk, spurring him through difficult days. Meanwhile, the association committee is pondering how the new temple will serve the 10,000 Hindus in the area. Karunagaran says it will save devotees a 30 minute-drive to Dengkil.
Kanagaraja said the new temple will be built in honour of Lalithambikai, the Hindu Goddess who oversees all of life's needs, on the spot where a forest ranger once found an injured eagle and nursed it back to life. The eagle is believed to be the Goddess' mode of transportation. Kanagaraja takes it as a sign that she has chosen to reside in Putrajaya. "I have faith that Lalithambikai will pave the path for this temple. If she has chosen to make this place her home, she will provide the means," he said.