While in Kuala Lumpur, a half day visit to the 400 million years old Batu Caves is a must. It is a lime stone formation that was used by the indigenous people. Batu Caves owes its name to the Batu river that flows by the caves and the village nearby bearing the same name. Some time in late 19th century (1890), K Thamboosawamy Pillai an Indian trader in Malaysia converted these caves to a Hindu Shrine dedicated to Lord Muruga (son of Shiva as per mythology).
I took a train from KL Sentral and was in Batu Caves in about 30 minutes. The cave complex is just outside the train station. There is a temple on the way to the main cave complex on the left which I decided to explore on my way out. The temple cave is a steep 272 step climb. The 140 feet high golden statue of Lord Muruga stands guard at the gate of the stairway. The figures above the main gate depict scenes from Ramayana – Indian Mythology The climb is a cardio challenge if you are not used to regular physical activity. Take it slow and easy, sip water frequently with long deep breaths. My regular yoga practice ensured that I sailed through easily, stopping to share a smile of encouragement to others.
I stopped at the first cave which was huge and had a temple and a few idols placed around within the folds of limestone formations. The last flight of steps led to the main temple which was located between numerous stalactite and stalagmites. Monkeys were having a field day with bananas snatched from the unsuspecting. The stalactites in the natural limestone cave shone under the sun rays and it was surreal to walk around the temple.
The black stone carved peacock facing Lord Muruga in the temple was exquisite. On my way down, I could see the Kuala Lumpur Skyline but not as clearly since it was a cloudy day. The Petronas Towers and other high rises can be spotted from the top when there is clear visibility.
Batu Dark Caves
I joined a guided tour of the dark caves which is just below the temple cave for 35 RM. I was very impressed with the lady guide who took us through some alleys in the dark caves which is home to some of the endangered insects and bats.
It was an experience of its kind and I came out stewed in sweat from the humid caves.
Batu Caves – Ramayana and Others
At the base of the cave hills, there are 6 identical temples with idols of Lord Muruga. These are impressions of the 6 temples dedicated to him located in various places in Tamil Nadu, India. (Tirrutani, Swamimalai, Palani, Tiruchendur, Pazhamudircholai; Thirupparankunram)
I gave the Ramayana Caves a miss since it was more like an exhibition gallery and I have seen enough and more of those in India. I did enter the temple with the gilded top which is dedicated to Venkatachalapati – an incarnation of Vishnu. It was nice clean and peaceful and I spent some time sitting around the steps. After a good 3 hours in Batu Caves it was time to return to back to the city.
Batu Caves – Rock Climbing
On the other side of the caves, rock climbing activities are conducted by trained professionals. Though I was very tempted, I gave it a miss since last minute fears got the better of me. If you are an adventure junkie do try out this activity. Verticale is one of the companies who conduct this activity.
How to Reach
- The best way to reach Batu Caves is to take the train from KL Sentral. The Kommuter line terminates in Batu Caves. A 2 RM one way ticket will lead to Batu Caves in about 25 minutes. Trains are available every 20-30 minutes starting 6am and even more frequently during peak hours.
- Alternativey take a taxi and the 15 km journey can be done in an hour with about 30RM.
Best time to Visit
- It is best to be here as early as possible when it is cooler and the crowds are less, else it can get difficult to walk on the stone steps bare feet.
- The caves don a festive look on Thai Poosam; full moon day in the month of Thai (Jan-Feb). Devotees flock to the temple cave with offerings of milk to Lord Murugan. On Thai Poosam day, Murugan was believed to have been blessed by his parents Shiva and Parvati with the “Vel” a spear like divine weapon to annihilate the demons.