History of Mahindarama

It all began on one fine day ....


When Ven. A. Pemaratana Thero arrived in Penang in 1918 while residing at the Batu Lanchang Cemetery, preaching the teaching of the Buddha to a handful of Buddhist devotees. Then he expressed his wish to establish a Ceylonese style Buddhist Temple in Penang. One Sinhalese gentleman, Mr. M.V. Gregory bought a piece of land at Caunter Hall and presented it for the construction of the Monastery. A Shrine Hall was built with the support of the devotees enabled the Venerable to carry out his missionary work. A school named "Sariputta" was established to teach Buddhism and the English Language.


Unfortunately during the rainy season, the Caunter Hall Buddhist Temple was flooded and it was necessary to relocate it to another suitable place. In 1921, the present Temple site, was bought through the support of the devotees. The Venerable then went back to Ceylon to bring back with him the designs of the Buddha Image in different postures and the 24 Buddhas.

The Ven. A. Pemaratana fell sick and he passed away peacefully at 1 am on the 10th of July 1927 and his ashes were enshrined in a stupa ( pagoda ) erected at the compound of the Caunter Hall Buddhist Temple. The unexpected death of the Chief Priest caused a great deal of burden and responsibilities to his only pupil, the Ven. W Sumanasara Thero.

With strong determination and effort, the Ven. W. Sumanasara began to raise funds for the construction of the new temple building. With special permission from the government, the Venerable went to all states in Malaya, where sufficient funds were collected. Some abled Ceylonese artists were engaged to begin the art work for the buildings. The greatest assistance came from the Penang Buddhist Association towards the building project and some generous women in Penang for their contribution towards the cost of the erection of the building.

In 1930, the Ven. W. Sumanasara Thero, moved his missionary work to the new Mahindarama Buddhist Temple. On the Wesak Day of 1933, the main Shrine Hall was declared open to the public.

The Ven. W. Sumanasara Thero was then disrobed on the 15th July 1933, due to his ill-health. The temple was then handed over to the newly appointed Chief Monk, Ven. K. Gunaratana Thero from Ceylon.


One of the many Buddha images erected in the Mahindarama Shrine Hall.

Further improvements on the temple facilities were undertaken. These included :-

1. the Sri Lankan paintings along the 24 Buddhas passage ways.
2. the building of a small pagoda on the top of the meditation hall
3. the construction of the preaching ( lecture ) hall, 1957
4. the formation of a Buddhist library ,1957


the establishment of the Mahindarama Temple Buddhist Association in 1957 to assist the resident monks to carry on their Buddhist activities the formation of the Mahindarama Sunday Pali School, 1959 to promote the Buddhist religious education to the younger generations. On the 19th January, 1964 the Most Ven. K. Gunaratana Maha Nayaka Thero, who was also the Chief High Priest for Malaya and Singapore passed away. On the 14th August, 1965, the Ven. M.A. Upananda Maha Thero was appointed the new Chief Monk.

And improvements to the temple continued :-

  1. the construction of the dinning hall, meditation hall and the monk's quarter, 1967
  2. the erection of the bell tower, 1969 - with the height of 42 feet
  3. the Bodhi Tree Area ( Bodhi Pakara ), 1971 - surrounding the tree that was brought from the original sacred Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.
  4. the new drainage system
  5. renovation of the shrine hall and the Gunaratana Memorial Library


In 1974, the Ven. Sri. SV Pandit P. Pemaratana was appointed Chief Monk of the temple on the demised of the late Ven. Upananda Maha Thero.

Again the improvement to the temple continued with :-

A. the construction of the 3 storey Wisma Mahinda

1. ground floor
    - 3 preceptor's rooms with the capacity of 40 persons
    - the K. Gunaratana Memorial Library 

2. first floor - 7 Dhamma classes and the Sunday School's office

3. second floor - the A. Pemaratana Hall where meditators use to dwell

B. the upgrading of the Main Shrine Hall to the Sima Hall status which will enable the performance of the higher Ordination for monkshood and the confession of Patimokkha where dispute were solved.

The Ven. P. Pemaratana passed away peacefully in 1995 and Ven Indratana Thero was appointed as the new Chief Monk. There have been many innovative improvements since then to upgrade the Temple activities including the following :


  • the establishment of the Amata Clinic (26th Oct 1996)
  • Upgrading of Amata Clinic to Amata Free Medical & Diabetic Center (12th Apr. 1998)
  • the establishment of the Sarana Old Folk's Home (14th Feb.1998)
  • the No-Sales or Business Policy in the Temple Ground.
  • the beautification of the Temple premises with Go-Green environmental Concept.
  • the Reduction of joss-stick urns from 19 to 3 correspond to the three objects of Veneration mainly the Stupa (the house of the holy relics), the Bodhi Tree and the Buddha Rupa in the Main Sima Hall.


The Establishment of Mahindarama Sunday Pali School

Mahindarama Sunday Pali School was the brainchild of Ven. Sri S.V. Pandit Pemaratana Nayaka Maha Thera in his effort to promote Buddhist Education on the 6th September, 1959.

The school is managed by the Management Committee comprising of members elected during the Annual General Meeting. In addition to it, the school is also under constant guidance of five lay-advisors and the religious advisors.

    The main objectives of the Sunday School are :-
  1. to study and propagate Buddhism
  2. to encourage Buddhist youth activities
  3. to encourage, foster and develop the quality of truth compassion in the practice of the Buddha-Dhamma
  4. to render assistance to Buddhist organizations where necessary
  5. to render spiritual assistance / advice to members or any Buddhist in case of sickness and / or death,
  6. to encourage the study of the Pali language.

Click to see more elaboration of the Sunday School activities.