|Just a few miles outside of Kuala Lumpur in the steamy rain forests of Malaysia, a single large monolithic mountain juts skyward from the jungle ground. Located inside the mountain there are three caves that are called Batu Caves. The entrance to the largest of the caves, an incredible limestone cave with a vaulted, stalactite encrusted, ceiling nearly 200 feet high, is nearly 185 feet from the forest floor. This cave is also known as the Temple Cave. |
Batu Caves is like no other place on earth, with exotic parasitic plants, colorful birds, monkeys, and gigantic bats. In the relatively untouched caves a quite diverse variety of cave animals can be found, including several species found nowhere else in the world.
First the Batu Caves were discovered by Europeans in 1879, but the caves have been in use by local people since prehistoric times.
In Thai month, on the day of the full moon, devoted Hindus offer prayer and a sacred palanquin to Lord Murugan (also known as the 'six-faced God'). The Thaipusam festival shows a sacred pilgrimage of colossal proportions. About one million people get together at this spot during the 7 day celebration.
The jewel encrusted image of Lord Murugan is taken on the eve of the festival from the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple at Jalan Bandar in Kuala Lumpur. It is transported on a chariot of silver, and worshipers follow a procession to Batu Caves where the image is put in the Temple Cave.
Hindus prepare themselves by fasting, or only eating small amounts of certain foods and maintaining near-trance, discipline and focus.
And penitents carry kavadis, ornate and heavy frames that are supported by metal spikes and skewers inserted in the bearer's body. Many of them also drive metal pins, rings, and sharp metal hooks, through ears, tongues, lips, and every other part of the body, in fulfillment of their vows for favors or forgiveness received. And the penitents struggle in the searing heat and humidity, as they chant their way up the 272 steps to the entry of the Temple Cave.