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Street of Harmony, Malaysia

Tucked away in a quiet neighborhood in Butterworth, Penang, Malaysia, is a corner dotted with nine structures depicting the places of worship of most of the major world religions. There are a mosque, a church, a gurdwara, a Buddhist prayer hall, two Chinese and three Indian temples (two being South Indian and one the ISKCON temple, belonging to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness).
Perhaps a Jewish synagogue, a Tibetan gompa and a Parsi fire temple would have added to this medley, but no matter, this itself is a poignant reminder of the sublime essence of humanity propagated by all faiths, and so the area itself is called the 'Street of Harmony'.
Since some of the buildings were under renovation at the time of my visit, it was not possible to capture the vibrancy that would have been evident if all of them were in their full glory, but I could not miss the sense of peace and spirituality emanating from even the most inconspicuous objects, such as the rusty panel of an old door frame leaching its new colors, or the expectant blooms of a lush potted adenium plant.
The 'prasad' and the 'langar' at the Sikh gurdwara are not to be missed, as also the lavish vegetarian lunch at the ISKCON temple, and so one should visit these two places on separate days to be able to enjoy the experience to the fullest. Of course, it might be a good idea to avoid major festivals, when these very destinations would be overrun with devotees, pilgrims and tourists, although those that are brave of heart might then enjoy them even more. 
At the start of a new year, and at a time when the world is witnessing massive amounts of conflict on an almost unprecedented scale, may we not forget that we can not only co-exist but also thrive even if belonging to different backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures. I do not seem to get enough of such shining gems of local attractions a short drive or walk from where I live and work. In between boarding flights, trains, boats, buses or cars, such discoveries fill me with joy and gratitude while giving me the much needed breaks from long and tedious travel.


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