You are on page 1of 11

BATU CAVES

By
TAMARAPU SAMPATH KUMARAN
About the author:
Mr T Sampath Kumaran is a freelance writer. He regularly contributes articles on
Management, Business, Ancient Temples and Temple Architecture to many
leading Dailies and Magazines. His articles for the young is very popular in “The
Young World section” of THE HINDU.
He was associated in the production of two Documentary films on Nava Tirupathi
Temples, and Tirukkurungudi Temple in Tamilnadu. His books on Festivals and
Customs of people around the world, and places of Tourist interest, have been well
received by the younger circles.

Acknowledgement: Google for the pictures and many authors for the information,
Batu Caves, Selangor is one of the top
attractions in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is a series of limestone caves that
surrounds a limestone hill. It is about 100m tall and 400m long. Discovered in
1892, the limestones that form the caves are said to be 400 million years old. It is
the tenth limestone hill from Ampang.
Limestone is a sedimentary rock, composed mainly of skeletal fragments of marine
organisms such as coral, forams and molluses. Its major materials are the minerals
calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate.

Limestone has numerous uses: as a building material, an essential component of


concrete (Portland cement), as aggregate for the base of roads, as white pigment or
filler in products such as toothpaste or paints, as a chemical feedstock for the
production of lime, as a soil conditioner or as a popular decorative addition to rock
gardens.

Like most other sedimentary rocks, most limestone is composed of grains. Most
grains in limestone are skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or
foraminifera. These organisms secrete shells made of aragonite or calcite and leave
these shells behind when they die. Other carbonate grains comprising limestones
are ooids, poloids, intra clasts, and extra clasts.
Limestone is very common in architecture, especially in Europe and North
America. Many landmarks across the world, including the Great Pyramid and its
associated complex in Giza, Egypt, were made of limestone. So many buildings in
Kingston, Ontario, Canada were, and continue to be, constructed from it that it is
nicknamed the 'Limestone City'. On the island of Malta, a variety of limestone
called Globigerina limestone was, for a long time, the only building material
available, and is still very frequently used on all types of buildings and sculptures.
Standing at 42.7 m (140 ft) high, the world's tallest statue of Murugan, a Hindu
deity, is located outside Batu Caves. The statue, which cost approximately 24
million rupees, is made of 1550 cubic metres of concrete, 250 tonnes of steel bars
and 300 litres of gold paint brought in from neighbouring Thailand, having taken 3
years to construct.

Rising almost 100 m above the ground, the Batu Caves temple complex consists of
three main caves and a few smaller ones. The biggest, referred to as Cathedral
Cave or Temple Cave, has a very high ceiling and features ornate Hindu shrines.
To reach it, visitors must climb a steep flight of 272 steps.

At the base of the hill are two more cave temples, Art Gallery Cave and Museum
Cave, both of which are full of Hindu statues and paintings. This complex was
renovated and opened as the Cave Villa in 2008. Many of the shrines relate the
story of Lord Murugan’s victory over the demon Soorapadman. An audio tour is
available to visitors.

The Ramayana Cave is situated to the extreme left as


one faces the sheer wall of the hill. On the way to the Ramayana Cave, there is a
15 m (50 ft) tall statue of Hanuman and a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman,
devotee and aide of Lord Rama. The Ramayana Cave depicts the story of Rama in
a chronicle manner along the irregular walls of the cave. There are various
undeveloped caves which contain a diverse range of cave fauna, including some
unique species, such as Liphistiidae spiders and Eonycteris fruit bats the site is also
well known for its numerous macaques, which visitors feed — sometimes
involuntarily. These monkeys may also pose a biting hazard to tourists (especially
small children) as they can be quite territorial.

Below the Temple Cave is the Dark Cave, with rock formations and several
animals found nowhere else. It is a two-kilometer network of relatively untouched
caverns. 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.

To maintain the cave's ecology, access is restricted. The Malaysian Nature Society
organises regular educational and adventure trips to the Dark Wet Caves.
Batu Caves is also the center of rock climbing
development in Malaysia for past several years. The caves have been formed
naturally of huge rocks. The rocks have a rugged surface which aid in climbing.
The roofs have sharp and pointed projections jutting down from the top. Batu
Caves offers more than 160 climbing routes. The routes are scattered all around the
side of Batu Caves, which is made up of limestone hills rising to 150 m. These
climbing routes are easily accessed, as most crags start from ground level. These
climbing routes often start from the North Eastern side of the cave complex
whereas the staircase and temple entrance face South. This North eastern area is
known as the Damai caves. Abseiling and spelunking trips can be organised with
some local adventure companies.

Icons carried in procession during Thaipusam at


Batu Caves. The Batu Caves serve as the focus of the Hindu community's yearly
Thaipoosam festival. They have become a pilgrimage site not only for Malaysian
Hindus, but Hindus worldwide, from countries such as India, Australia and
Singapore and China.

A procession begins in the wee hours of the morning on Thaipusam from the
Mariamman temple, Kualalumpur leading up to Batu Caves as a religious
undertaking to Lord Muruga lasting eight hours. Devotees carry containers
containing milk as offering to Lord Murugan either by hand or in huge decorated
carriers on their shoulders called 'Kavadi'.

The kavadi may be simple wooden arched semi-circular supports holding a carrier
foisted with brass or clay pots of milk or huge, heavy ones which may rise to two
meters, built of bowed metal frames which hold long skewers, the sharpened end
of which pierce the skin of the bearer’s torso. The kavadi is decorated with flowers
and peacock feathers imported from India. Some kavadi may weigh as much as a
hundred kilograms.

After bathing in the nearby Sungai Batu (Rocky River), the devotees make their
way to the Temple Cave and climb the flights of stairs to the temple in the cave.
Devotees use the wider center staircase while worshippers and onlookers throng up
and down those balustrades on either side.

When the kavadi bearer arrives at the foot of the 272-step stairway leading up to
the Temple Cave, the devotee must make the arduous climb.

Priests attend to the kavadi bearers. Consecrated ash is sprinkled over the hooks
and skewers piercing the devotees' flesh before they are removed. No blood is shed
during the piercing and removal.
The main temple of Murugan, Batu Caves.

Ascending to the top of the Batu Caves would offer a panoramic view of the
surroundings. The cave affords an amazing view of the entire township located
miles away.

There are two prayer pavilions in Batu Caves. One is located at a base while the
other is inside the cave. The shrines show intricately detailed sculptures of Hindu
gods on the roof.
There are 272 steps leading to the cave. The mountain climbing enthusiasts can
also try the rock climbing routes which are as many as one hundred and seventy in
number. Sometimes, you’ll find several monkeys that are in the habit of freaking
out the visitors.

The interiors of the cave show intricate wall murals. The murals are dramatically
painted by the artists and portray rustic settings as background for the Hindu
deities.

A panoramic view from the top of the hill.