The Batu Caves Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpa during holy festival of Thaipusam
Postcard from Sutr, “The postcard is from my sister who was travelling with her boyfriend and his mother, who are from Sweden. She lives there now. The postcard describes the usual rigmarole of enmeshed family life in Malaysia. You forget how normal it all seems and how jarring their behaviours are on your return. “
Friday, 18 May 2007.
“Hello all in Sydney,
Lisa (Chris’ mum), Chris & I came to Penang yesterday from KL by bus 5 hours. On the first day/night Chris and I arrived Uncle Bobby and Aunty GhekBee picked us up from the airport (KL) & fed us with a mountain of food. ”chia chia chia!”…. They took Chris and I on our first day to Batu Caves. We were all blessed and had red powder (see front) pressed onto our foreheads. Some Indian guy in the carpark gave Chris the the thumbs up. Uncle Fong gave us free dental check ups AIYAH!! We tried to pay but they refused. *sigh* Will meet them for dinner when we go back to KL.
13 kilometeres north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia lies a 400 million year old limestone hill where lies a series of caves and cave temples complex. Batu Caves takes the name from the Sugain Baut (Batu River). The caves were used as shelters by the indigenous Temuan people. A pattern emerging with these postcard sites is that these sites often become famous after being recorded by colonial authorities.
Pillai was an Indian trader who founded the Sri Mahamariaman Temple in Kuala Lumpa, was inspired by the Batu cave’s entrance and decided to create a temple of dedication to Lord Muruga there.
The story of Lord Muruga is described in Skanda Purana. Lord Murugan is a popular deity amongst Hindu Tamils and is also known as the God of War or Skanda. He was a young, handsome, fire-eating and spear-throwing deity. Lord Murugan is considered to be the manifestation of handsomeness, robust youthfulness, masculinity, fragrance and unmatched valour - all symbolising the abode of happiness. Muruga has no beginning or end. he was not born nor can die. He has been described as being analogus to the sun, always shining brightly somewhere in the world, even when part of the world is cast in darkness.
He lived on forested hills and of course fond of pursuits typical to that of a handsome war god - hunting, fighting and had an appetite for blood sacrifice. According to legend, Murga rose from Lord Shiva’s Third Eye to protect gods who were subjected to extreme torture and cruelty by the demon Surapadma. The gods appealed to Lord Siva who brought forth Murga, an element of Himself, and yet distinct from himself, who would alone be able to slay Surapadman and his clan. Many of the shrines in the Batu Caves relate the story of Lord Murugan’s victory over the demon Soorapadman.
The Batu Caves consists of three main caves, the largest, the Cathedral/Temple Cave has high ceilings and features ornate Hindu Shrines. For visitors and those making the pilgrimage they must first climb a flight of 272 steps. It was in the Temple Cave, Pillai installed a consecrated statue of Sri Subramania Swamy. The tallest statue of Murugan, is located outside the Batu Caves. The statue, rising to an ominous height of 42.7 m and stands beaming in the sunlight covered in 300 litres of gold paint brought in from Thailand.
The Batu Caves becomes the focal point of the annual Thaipusam festival and attracts approximately 1.5 million Hindu devottees worldwide. The processsion is an 8 hour religious ceremony begining at Sri Mahamariamman Temple in KL and leading to the Batu Caves. Milk is offered to Lord Murga by devottees either by hand or in clay pots.
The limestone hills is also home to numberous macaque monkeys which visitors sometimes feed. They have posed a biting hazard to tourists and have become quite territorial. Below the Temple Cave lies a two kilometre network of untouched cavens known as the Dark Cave. Over thousands of years, stalagmites rise from the floor and stalactites drip from the ceilings to form intricate flow stones, cave pearls and scallops. The caves are home to some unique species including the Liphistiidae spiders and Eonycteris and Rousettus fruit bats.