22 Mar Kapitan Keling Mosque
In George Town, where Buckingham Street and Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling (formerly Pitt Street) meet, sits the famous Kapitan Keling Mosque, which gave the latter road its new name. Smack-dab in the middle of George Town’s historic Heritage Zone, the Kapitan Keling Mosque also serves as the centre of the city’s Tamil Muslim neighbourhood, just off the Little India area. Established in 1801 by Cauder Mohudeen, a prominent Indian Muslim leader who was appointed as Captain of the South Indian (“Keling”) community by then-Penang Lieutenant Governor Sir George Leith, it became the first permanent Muslim institution in Penang. Cauder was seen as a leader of sorts among the Tamil Muslim community at the time; hence he was given the moniker “Kapitan Keling”.
As the Indian Muslim population around the area grew, so too did the mosque’s followers. Subsequently, a larger mosque was constructed to replace the old structure, and its 1916 completed structure still stands to this day.
Non-Muslims are welcome to visit this mosque outside of main prayer times, which lies between 1pm and 5pm. Admission is free for all, though for female visitors, a purple robe that is provided by the mosque’s community must be worn.
The mosque’s architecture, surrounded by a picturesque garden that boasts a towering minaret, features a main prayer hall with huge arches rising above the prayer rugs, with a chandelier hanging below the central dome. Beautifully designed stained glass windows and panels in Arabic language adorn most of the interiors, which have been decorated with geometric designs as human and animal forms are forbidden in Islam.
The mosque’s enduring legacy as part of George Town’s World Heritage Site showcases one of the many roots of Penang Island’s various communities, having its humble beginnings as individuals but ultimately amalgamating into one whole, diverse community that continues to inspire and enchant both religious and non-religious locals and tourists alike.