Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
About Batu Caves
Batu Caves, one of Kuala Lumpur’s most frequented tourist attractions, is a limestone hill comprising three major caves and a number of smaller ones. Located approximately 11 kilometres to the north of Kuala Lumpur, this 100-year-old temple features idols and statues erected inside the main caves and around it. Incorporated with interior limestone formations said to be around 400 million years old, the temple is considered an important religious landmark by Hindus.
Cathedral Cave – the largest and most popular cavern in Batu Caves – houses several Hindu shrines beneath its 100-metre-high arched ceiling. At the foot of Batu Hill are two other cave temples – the Art Gallery Cave and Museum Cave – which houses numerous Hindu statues and paintings.
Batu Caves during Thaipusam
Batu Caves is the focal point of the annual Hindu festival of Thaipusam, which attracts thousands of devotees and visitors. Usually held at the end of January, the procession begins on the evening before the Thaipusam Festival at the Sri Mariamman Temple in KL city centre.
The procession more often than not, arrives at Batu Caves in the wee hours of the morning the next day; the entire celebration commences then and is a colourful event that lasts a total of eight hours. In the past the festival has attracted more than one million pilgrims, making it one of the largest gatherings in the world.
Many disciples carry their offerings – containers of milk – to the Lord Muruga on large, brightly decorated ‘kavadis’. Kavadis are two huge semicircular ornate pieces of wood or steel which are bent and attached to a cross structure that can be balanced on the shoulders. These frameworks are also usually combined with various metal hooks and skewers which are used to pierce the skin, cheeks and tongue. The kavadi is decorated with flowers and peacock feathers and some can weigh up to as much as 100 kilos.
Some disciples also fulfil vows that they have made to the Gods by having their bodies pierced by hooks, needles and even skewers and visitors are often fascinated by the dedication of devotees.
The truly amazing feat is when followers begin the arduous climb up the 272 steps to the top of the caves – the trek requires a stunning amount of endurance as they often have to work against the press of the bustling masses. Priests wait at the top to sprinkle consecrated ash over the hooks and skewers piercing the devotee’s flesh before they are removed.
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