Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Magnificent Batu Caves of Malaysia

On a laid back Sunday afternoon without traffic, once can reach this magnificent destination in 20 minutes from the KL city center. The Batu Cave temple complex rises almost 100 m above the ground and consists of three main caves and a few smaller ones. The biggest, referred to as Cathedral Cave or Temple Cave, has a 100 m-high ceiling and features ornate Hindu shrines. To reach it, visitors must climb a steep flight of 272 steps. My wife had no problems climbing the steps this time, as they were relatively "easier" compared to the Great Wall climb. The cave is located in Gombak district, 13 kilometers (8 mi) north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It takes its name from the Sungai Batu or Batu River, which flows past the hill. Batu Caves is also the name of the nearby village.

The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is the focal point of Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia. The limestone forming Batu Caves is said to be around 400 million years old. Some of the cave entrances were used as shelters by the indigenous Temuan people (a tribe of Orang Asli). There was a festival happening during our visit. There were several elaborate dances and traditional Hindu music playing with long queues of devotees inside the temples.

The Batu Caves was promoted as a place of worship by K. Thamboosamy Pillai, an Indian trader. He was inspired by the 'vel'-shaped entrance of the main cave and was inspired to dedicate a temple to Lord Muruga within the caves. A 42.7-metre (140 ft) high statue of Lord Muruga was unveiled in January 2006, having taken 3 years to construct. It is the tallest Lord Muruga statue in the world.