Saturday, January 27, 2007

Batu Caves

Batu Caves, Selangor, Malaysia
Batu Caves first caught public attention in 1878 when an American naturalist, William Hornaday followed the odour of guano up a jungle trial and chanced upon huge limestone caves which he compared with Basilica of Saint Peter, Rome. It consist of 3 main caves followed by a number of smaller ones. The caves were then surrounded by thick jungle 13 km from the city center and only accessible by hardy hikers guided by local guides. However, because of Hornaday's enthusiasm, eager visitors had beaten a regular trial to the caves.

The caves soon became a favourite place for Hindu devotees to set up a shrine to honor the omnipotent Tamil Deity Lord Murugan. Early visitors had to scramble over piles of rocks, but as time goes by, wooden steps followed by stone steps made the caves more accessible. You now have to climb 272 steps to get to the caves. The biggest cave is the Temple Cave or Cathedral Cave which is visited by many devotees. The ceiling of this cave is about 100m above the ground, and several holes in the ceiling lights up the cave during daytime. In January 2006, a 42.7m high statue of Lord Murugan was constructed at the Batu Caves.

Near the foot of the steps is an Art Gallery Cave which display statues and paintings of Hindu gods as well as scenes from the Ramayana. The sculptures and pictures are painted in beautiful color and great details and even individual eyelashes and fingernail ridges can be seen. Entry fee is RM1.

The most busy period of Batu Caves is during the Thaipusam festival celebrated on the 10th month of the Hindu calender, which will fall on 1 Febuary this year. This festival celebrates 2 events, the birthday of Lord Murugan and the defeat of the demon Soorapadman by Lord Murugan. The gathering start in the evening before the festival in the Sri Mariamman Temple in centre of Kuala Lumpur. For this year, the procession will begin its journey from Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, Jalan Tun H.S Lee, on February 1 at 12.20am led by a silver chariot and is expected to reach Batu Caves early in the morning on the same day.

The chariot will be accompanied by devotees carrying kavadis, which represent mini shrines placed on the shoulders of devotees. Chains are hooked from the kavadis onto the flesh of the carrier. Some are pierced by spears, which are not to be more than 1m long. Others hook limes, oranges or coconuts onto their bodies as an act of seeking blessings from the gods. They will be accompanied by supporters with dances, songs and music.

Since this year is Visit Malaysia Year 2007, there will be a 10-minutes fireworks display at 12 midnight on January 31 and cultural performances, musicals, classical and modern dance performances on Febuary 1.

Getting There

You can take bus no. 11D from the front of Bangkok building near the Central Market (Pasar Seni), which will be a ride of about 1 hour. Alternatively you can take a taxi which may cost from RM12 to RM20 which will take 45 minutes.

More information can be obtained from the Kuala Lumpur Tourist Office at 03-2615 8188 or 1-300-88-5776

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