BY JEYANTHY PILLAI
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA – A trip to the famous Batu Caves was arranged for the year end for the children from Gokul Garden and Gopal’s Fun School from ISKCON KL and ISKCON KLANG on Christmas Day. They had loads of fun and the trip was really memorable.
Batu Caves is a 400 million limestone hill with beautiful stalactities and stalagmites is natures wonder. The massif and its caves shelter a variety of flora and fauna – some are so rare that they are only found here.
A 113 year old main temple dedicated to Lord Subramaniar (also known as Lord Karttikeya or Lord Muruga) is lodged in a cave known as the Temple Cave, 400 feet above ground level. One has to climb a 272 step stairway to reach the temple. Close to a million people converge here on the eve of Thaipusam. Thaipusam falls on the full-moon day of the Tamil month of Thai. The day also marks the day on which Lord Siva danced with His consort Uma and the day where Lord Muruga received his divine spear, Vel, from His mother, Uma.
At the base of the hill, there are three caves with statuary and mural depiction of the scenes from Ramayana, Mahabharata and lives of renowned Tamil poets.
The three caves are known as Ramayan Cave, Art Gallery and the Valluvar Kottam. The depictions are spectacularly graphic. The Ramayan Cave presents a concise but comprehensive narration of Lord Rama’s history.
We were lucky to be allowed in the Ramayan Cave which is located near the Hanuman temple. The statues of 50 feet Hanuman and 141 feet Murugan outside the temples as well as the diorama on the Ramayana in the Ramayan Cave were recently repainted and renovated for the upcoming Thaipusam, so everything looked really new. Make sure you don’t miss out seeing them in our photo gallery.
The Batu Caves are situated thirteen kilometers (seven miles) north of the capital city Kuala Lumpur. They are the sacred place for the Hindu’s in Malaysia. They consist of three main caves and a number of smaller ones. The caves are made of limestone and 400 meters long and 100 meter high. They were discovered in 1892.
At your arrival you will be greeted by lots of monkeys. They are going for your peanuts and bananas, which you can buy in several shops, before you climb up to the caves. You have to climb 272 steps, which will lead you to the religious and magnificent Batu Caves.
Once a year they celebrate the Thaipusam festival in the Batu Caves. It’s a celebration for the son of Shiva (Subramaniam) and the becoming “one” of Pusan and the Brihaspati stars.
The Thaipusam festival.
Every year, on Thaipusam, as many as 800,000 devotees and other visitors throng the caves. As a form of penance or sacrifice, many of them carry kavadis (literally, “burden,” such as a pitcher or jug). These are large, brightly decorated frameworks, usually combined with various metal hooks and skewers which are used to pierce the skin, cheeks and tongue.
By doing this penance they expect some favours from their Gods.
The festival is held in the tenth month of the Hindu calendar (mostly the end of January).
The procession starts on the evening before the Thaipusam festival at the Sri Mariamman Temple in the town centre of Kuala Lumpur. By doing penance they fulfill their vows for getting the boon they had asked from the Gods. The kavadis is placed on the shoulders of the devotee. The kavadis represents a miniature shrine.
Women carry a silver jug full of milk on their heads, some are pierced through their cheeks and tongues and others not.
Chains are dropped from the central body of the kavadis and hooked onto the flesh of the bearer. The length of the spears had to be limited to a metre in consideration for other devotees. Others hook limes, oranges or coconuts onto their bodies.
They are always accompanied by an entourage of relatives and friends to make them enthusiastic with dance parades, songs, musicians playing the drums and the flutes. As they arrive at the shrine at the Batu Caves, the priest removes the hooks, spears etc. The vow is finally fulfilled.
Temple Cave or Cathedral Cave is the best known and biggest of the caves. It’s visited by many devotees. The ceiling is 100 m above the ground and this huge chamber is lighted by daylight from several holes in the ceiling.
At the end of the caves you can see the bright sky, when you look above you.
If you go up the stairs, you can meet a lot of long tailed-macaque monkeys and if you have peanuts with you, they’ll climb to you as I won’t consider recommending. You might fall though.
You can take photos of them, carrying their babies for the peanuts. There are locals in the entrance, who will approach you to buy peanuts!
Below the Temple Cave is the Dark Cave, with its amazing rock formations and a number of animals found nowhere else. Stalactites jutting from the cave’s ceiling and stalagmites rising from the floor form intricate formations such as cave curtains, flow stones, cave pearls and scallops which took thousands of years to form. The Malaysian Nature Society organises regular educational and adventure trips to the Dark Caves .
The other main cave is the Art Gallery Cave located at the foot of the steps. Statues and wall paintings depicting Hindu deities and mythology are displayed here. The walk to the entrance is itself quite a pleasant experience through a lake and ponds filled with hundreds of colourful fish.
Lord Murugan statue is the tallest statue of a Hindu deity in Malaysia, another master craft by sculptors from India. Lord Murugan statue is about 42.7-meter (141 feet) tall. It is located at the Sri Subramaniar Temple at the foot of Batu Caves. It was declared open on Jan 29, 2006 (Sunday).