The Nattukottai Chettiar Temple also known as Arulmigu Sri Thandayuthapani Temple, is perhaps the most famous among the Hindu temples located in Penang, Malaysia. Dedicated to Lord Thandayuthapani, also known as Lord Murugan, it is commonly known as the Thanneermalai Temple. Located on Waterfall Road (Jalan Kebun Bunga), this Shaivite temple is the centre of the annual Thaipusam festival in Penang.
Being astute businessmen and moneylenders, Chettiars traditionally built temples that were hallmarks of quality. These temples are usually well managed and financially self sufficient. The temple was founded around 1854, after the Chettiar community in Penang Street, bought the piece of land to build the Chettiar quarters, or kittangi. Within the Chettiar quarters is the temple of Thandayuthapani, an incarnation of the deity Murugan. A point of interest is that the wooden superstructure and the pillars are all made of Burmese teak. There are hundreds of paintings depicting religious themes lining the recesses of the roof all round. The sanctum sanctorum faces the east. This temple was built in the “chokkattan” form (a layout shaped like the plus sign, designed by His Holiness Veerappa Swamigal of the Kovilur Mutt, Karaikudi,Tamil Nadu, India) and was consecrated on 12th December, 1857. Further consecration ceremonies were held on 2nd September,1928; 8th February, 1935; 28th January, 1955; 13th July, 1981, and 27th November, 1995.
It was the practice for the Nattukottai Chettiars, to build temples for the Lord Murugan wherever they settled. This was the case in Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaya, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Singapore. They were advised by Sivachariars not to build any Sivan Temples as certain rituals had to be observed and since the Brahmin Sivachariars who would perform these rituals were prohibited, by tradition, from crossing the seas. So the Chettiar were advised to establish Lord Murugan Temples where non-Brahmin priests, the pandarams, could be employed as priests.