Have you ever heard of a remarkable story about the discovery of a Hindu temple in the jungle of Sarawak after being hidden for over half a century?

This incredible tale of rediscovery has been shedding light on the vibrant cultural history of the region and has captivated people from all over the world. But how and who did find out about the temple first?

Let’s delve into the history of this temple which is named as Mount Matang Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, Kuching Sarawak....

Abi bin Benggali, the Bidayuh/Melanau hunter, couldn't believe his eyes when he stumbled upon the deserted building in the heart of the Matang jungle. The structure was unlike anything he had ever seen before. As he approached the building, he noticed intricate carvings and statues adorning the exterior, indicating a connection to Hinduism.

Eager to explore further, Abi cautiously entered the building. Inside, he was greeted by an awe-inspiring sight—a hidden Hindu temple, preserved remarkably well despite its abandonment for over half a century. The interior was made entirely out of ‘belian’, a sturdy hardwood commonly found in the region. The craftsmanship was impeccable, showcasing the architectural brilliance of the temple's creators.

As Abi delved deeper into the temple, he discovered beautifully painted murals depicting scenes from Hindu mythology. The vibrant colors had managed to withstand the test of time, and the artistry behind them was truly remarkable. Abi felt a profound sense of reverence and wonder, realizing the historical significance of his discovery.

Realizing the importance of his findings, Abi decided to inform the local authorities and heritage organizations about the hidden temple. News of the discovery spread rapidly, attracting attention from archaeologists, historians, and devotees of Hinduism from around the world.

A team of experts such as - archaeologists meticulously examined the structure, attempting to trace its origins and determine its historical significance. They speculated that the temple might have been built during the colonial era when Hinduism had a strong presence in Sarawak due to Indian migration.

As news of the hidden temple reached the public, people began to flock to the site. Pilgrims and tourists, intrigued by the mystery and beauty of the temple, sought to experience its aura firsthand. The local community, recognizing the potential economic and cultural value, worked together to develop infrastructure and promote responsible tourism in the area.

The discovery of the hidden Hindu temple became a turning point for the region. It not only sheds light on the rich historical and cultural heritage of Sarawak but also acted as a catalyst for further exploration and preservation of other hidden treasures within the vast jungles of the area.

The restoration campaign for the lost temple began in 1968, initiated by the local Hindu community. They cleared a three-kilometer path that was originally built during the Brookes era, leading to the plantation. It turned out to be a well-built small road, gently sloping upwards. Craftsmen from India were brought in to carve intricate patterns on doors, walls, pillars, and furnishings of the temple. Perhaps, they also created statues and motifs with brief details.

The lost temple reopened for prayer on December 4, 1970. During the restoration process, it was reported that many Chinese merchants and devotees contributed to the temple through various donations.

Additionally, a shrine dedicated to the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha was constructed at the foothills of the mountain. The construction cost between RM70,000 and RM80,000, with a significant portion of the funds coming from a single Chinese donor. This donation was made as a token of gratitude after the donor experienced good luck following a visit to the Sri Maha Mariamman temple.

With that being said, the main bronze statue of Mother Goddess Sri Maha Mariamman (Amman) was brought to a small shrine in Kuching by the generation that stayed back. In 1991, a larger temple dedicated to the deity was constructed on a piece of land at Jalan Rock. The statue was then moved to the new temple, where it has remained until today.

The restoration project was finally completed in 2011, and a poojai (high mass) was held to celebrate the occasion. Nearly five hundred devotees, including James Lionel Brooke and Jason Desmond Brooke, the grandson and great-grandson of the last White Rajah, Charles Vyner Brooke attended the ceremony.

Since the completion of the restoration, devotees have regularly offered prayers at the temple, which is now under the care and administration of the Kuching Hindu Temple Association Ban Hock Road.

Source / Image Credit: Malaysian Temples , Borneo, WADD, Azlanrumadiblogspot