Batu Caves is a lovely combination of natural wonders embellished with man-made wonders. At the mouth of millions of years, old natural caverns stand a tall golden murti of Murugan, as if a man is trying to compete with the divine in creation.
Batu Caves are natural caverns on a limestone hill just on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. As you drive towards them you do not even realize that you have stepped out of the city. The only sign that tells you that caves may be around is the appearance of a rocky hillock. Finally, when you reach the caves, it is the giant Murti of Murugan in the golden color that catches your eye and you know you have reached the destination. The Murti facing the city with its back towards the caves appears to be guarding the cave and overlooking the city.
Batu Caves Tour – Things To Do In Kuala Lumpur
Murugan Murti at Batu Caves
An Indian Tamil trader installed the Murti of Murugan here as he felt the cave resembles the ‘Vel’ or spear of Murugan. Since the late 19th CE, it became a venue for the annual Thaipusam celebrations, which is a Tamil festival that roughly falls in January or February. Even today the procession of the festival comes from the Mahamariamman temple in the city to the Murugan temple.
The giant Murugan statue stands a good 140 feet above the ground. It is the tallest Hindu deity Murti in Malaysia and only the 3rd tallest in the world. It took three years and 15 Shilpis from India to build it. The statue was installed during the Thaipusam festival of 2006.
The mouth of the cave is almost on top of the hill. You have to take a flight of 272 steps to reach the entrance. White and red steps appear like a smooth sliding board from a distance but can be a daunting task to climb if you are not in the best of health. In 1920 CE, the first wooden steps were built to reach the cave. Since then, they have been converted to concrete.
At the cave entrance, you find shops that are typically outside temple shops. They sell flowers, toys, and psychedelic pictures of various avatars of the Gods and Goddesses. A multi-colored toran welcomes you at the entrance before you enter the dark and high cave. After crossing the huge hall, you can see another red and white stairs guiding you to a temple. A devotional atmosphere exists in the cave, with a lot of hustle and bustle like most South Indian temples. The natural feel of the cave is kind of lost.
At the base of the hill, there are two more temple caves, an art gallery, and a museum.
Like Borra caves in Araku Valley, these caves also have a hole in their ceiling, and that brings in some light and a lot of play of light as the sun travels through the day.
The cave is very damp and water-dropping here and there tells you that it is a living cavern, still on its path of creating its new self. This is the only thing that reminds you that these are natural caverns that took some 400 million years to form. Most stalactite and stalagmite formations on the lower levels are lost due to constant touch. But they can be seen high up on ceilings that are beyond human reach on a day-to-day basis.
Temuan tribe were the earliest known inhabitants of these caves. In the 1860s Chinese workers extracted guano from the caves to fertilize their farms. By the 1870s, an American naturalist working for British colonial power recorded this cave.
The caves get their name from the river by the same name that flows around them, but I could not see any river there. Batu also means Rock in Malay, so Batu Caves means the caves in a rock. Indeed these caves are naturally formed caves in limestone rock.
Around the hill, the tourist economy ensures good parking space, public transport connectivity, and a range of eating options. If you go from India, you can get the regular Tamil food here, and if you can speak Tamil you will get some smiles as well.
A good out-of-city trip for those who can afford to climb…
You can also do some adventure caving at the Dark Cave or rock climbing. People also come to explore the diverse flora and fauna that surround the caves like fruit bats and monkeys.
These caves are easily accessible from Kuala Lumpur via local transportation including the Metro and Buses. You can of course hire a can or visit it as part of a city tour. They are a popular tourist attraction which means anyone would easily guide you to them.