Friday, May 09, 2008

Batu Caves

Limestone Temple Extraordinaire

SITUATED about 13km from the city centre is the Batu Caves a limestone outcrop that is visible for miles away. It is located on the north west side of the capital and is believed to have gotten its name from the river that flows nearby, the Batu River. The caves are believed to have been discovered by an Indian trader in the 1800s but became famous only after it was rediscovered by American Naturalist, William Hornaday in 1878.

The limestone complex which makes up the Batu caves is believed to the of the same backbone of limestone range that reached Ipoh and beyond.

The Batu Caves comprised three caves - the Art Gallery Cave (ground level), the Dark Cave (on the left of the main cave) and the Temple Cave reachable via the 272 steps made of concrete. The Dark Cave has been closed since the mid-80s because neaby quarrying activities had rendered the cave tunnels unstable.

In the past, visitors could do a trip into the Dark Cave which is inhabited by bats and other cave flora and fauna. It is believed that this cave contains a network of tunnels measuring no less than 2km long.

Back in the 70s, another attraction to the Batu caves was a five-legged bull which was revered by the Hindus. The bull died and was immortalised into a statue (see picture above) which now sits beside the entrance to the Art Gallery Cave.

Today, only the Temple Cave (which ceiling is said to be as high as 100m) receives visitors - particularly during the annual Hindu religious festival of Thaipusam. There is a shrine within this Temple Cave.

On the eve of Thaipusam, a silver chariot procession carrying the deity Sri Mahariamman will begin from the Sri Mahamariamman Temple in city centre towards Batu Caves. Thousands of Hindu devotees carrying kavadis will join in the procession to fulfil their religious vows.

As you climb the steps towards the Cave Temple, you will also come across monkeys that live in the jungle area by the cave. They may look quite tame and many are quite bold enough to approach you for handout titbits. Refrain from feeding them, however. There are also plenty of pigeons on the temple ground. A lake a a bridge leads to the Art Gallery Cave on the left of the temple ground. This gallery houses the various sculptures of Hindu deities. A nominal fee is charged for entrance.

Getting There:
The Batu Caves tour is usually in the itinerary of the Kuala Lumpur City Tour. But if it is not on your tour, and would like to visit it, the best way is to do so by taking the LRT from KLCC. Take the Wangsa Maju line and get off at the last stop at Taman Melati. Here you can hail a cab to take you to Batu Caves for about RM7.

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