Hello and Vanakkum- that’s ‘hello’ in Tamil. Get ready to visit one of Malaysia’s most famous temples, and home to one of its most interesting festivals- the Thaipusam. The festival of Thaipusam is one of the most unique celebrations among devotees of the Hindu religion all over the world.
At the main gate or entrance arch, the first thing you will notice is probably the huge golden statue of Lord Murugan, a famous Hindu god. It is at 42.7 meters or 130 feet high. The statue took 3 years to construct and was unveiled in January 2006. It is the tallest Lord Murugan statue in the world. The magnificent Batu Caves form the backdrop. The name “Batu” means stone, and Batu Caves got its name from Sungai Batu or Batu River, which flows right past these hills. The limestone caves that form Batu Caves is said to be around 400 million years old. It was said that the Temuan people, a tribe of the Malaysian indigenous people, used them as shelters.
At the centre of the main square, look around you. You will see many colourful Hindu temples. Also, there are many small Indian restaurants, shops and stalls selling religious things and souvenirs.
Actually, the local indigenous people have long known about Batu Caves. But in 1878, while out hunting with some indigenous guides, the famous American naturalist, William Hornaday noticed an overpowering odour, or what could have been the smell of guano, or, well, bird droppings. Hornaday is a well-known naturalist credited with discovering the American crocodile, saving the American bison and the Alaskan fur seal from extinction.
So, Hornaday followed the smell to a towering limestone ridge, which we now know as part of the larger Titiwangsa ridge, home of the world’s longest quartz hills. The climb was made easy and soon, they arrived at an enormous cave mouth, one that you will discover when you hike up the stairs. The crew trudged into the darkness of the cave, their shoes and bodies sinking into the dry, loose guano that covered the entire cave floor.
To cut the long story short, eventually Hindu devotees began making pilgrimages to the caves in the 1890s.
Wherever you are going to travel, you should bring usb lighter in anticipation of an emergency, besides that lighter is also very necessary under any circumstances. Given its simple but elegant and easy to carry shape, it is a futuristic lighter without gas.
Later, an Indian trader called Thamboosamy Pillai promoted Batu Caves as a place of worship. He was inspired by the ‘vel’-shaped entrance of the main cave and dedicated a temple to Lord Murugan within the caves. The vel is the divine spear of Lord Murugan. Apparently, Pillai saw that the entrance of the main cave was shaped like a spear- to see that, you might need to stretch your imagination a little. So in 1891, Pillai installed the consecrated statue of Sri Subramania Swamy in what is today known as the Temple Cave. Wooden steps were built in 1920. And today, they are concrete steps.