Approximated to be more than 400 million years old when it was discovered in 1892, the Batu Caves are considered to be a holy place for the Hindus in Malaysia. It is a collection of three large caves and several smaller caves, measuring a total length of 400 meters and rising about 100 meters high above the ground. A huge limestone hill with a few man-made temples, the Caves are dedicated to Lord Murugan or Kartikeya and are the main venue for the celebration of Thaipusam Festival in the country.
Every year, Malaysia celebrates the Thaipusam Festival or the Murugan Festival. The Thaipusam Festival is a commemoration of the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a spear so he could defeat the evil demon Soorapadam. It is celebrated on a full moon of the Thai calendar and is observed not just by the Hindus of Malaysia but by Tamils around the world and the Hindus of the Southern India.
The Batu Caves draw a large number of devotees and visitors every Thaipusam Festival. The devotees are seen carrying pitchers and jugs that symbolize “burdens” as their way of offering sacrifice and imposing self-penance to receive blessings from their gods. It is also common to see devotees with metal-pierced skin: in their backs, faces, tongues and cheeks.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
It is not only during the Thaipusam Festival that visitors will find the Caves interesting, although it is undoubtedly the time when you’ll find the Caves more colorful and intriguing. Every day, you’ll find a group of Hindu devotees celebrating and gathering for religious ceremonies.
You’ll find the Temple Cave or the Cathedral Cave beautiful as well, with the sun streaming through several small holes on its ceiling. Reaching the end of the caves offers a sort of satisfaction also after being in the dark for long.
ONCE YOU ARRIVE
At your arrival, you will be greeted by the 42.7-meter high statue of Lord Murugan. The statue was said to have taken three years to build. And currently, it is the tallest Lord Murugan statue in the whole world.
At the foot of the 272 paved and cemented steps leading to the largest cave, the Cathedral Cave, you’ll also see Indian vendors dressed in traditional Indian sarongs. Some of them sell peanuts and bananas you can feed the monkeys you will meet along the way.
At the base, there’s a cave called Dark Cave, where there are limestone rock formations and conical pillars hanging up its ceilings and rising in its grounds. These are said to have taken thousands of years to form.
You will also find the Art Gallery Cave and the Museum Cave with sculptures of Hindu deities and art paintings depicting Lord Murugan’s triumph over evil. And at its entrance, there’s a lake and some ponds with numerous colorful fishes.
There are several entrances to the Batu Caves. In fact, there are a total of 160 climbing tracks scattered all around the outer sides of the cave, most of which can be climbed from the ground level. That is why this cave has also been the center of rock climbing activities in the country for the last ten years.
So, if you’re staying in Kuala Lumpur, a visit to the Batu Caves, one of the country’s top attractions, will surely prove to be interesting. You will not only witness first-hand Hindus’ religious rituals, you will also have the chance to observe the magnificent rock formations inside.