A sanctuary inside a mountain

There are many hidden and special spiritual treasures across this marvelous globe. One of those remarkable treasures is located about 13 kilometers from the Malasian city of Kuala Lumpur inside a limestone hill. This sanctuary is the temple dedicated to the deity of Murugan, where the river flows near Sungai Batu. The area is filled with caves that are formed millions of years ago and used in antiquity as a refuge for indigenous Temuan.

(© photo by Trey Ratcliff)

(© photo by Trey Ratcliff)

The Batu Caves are one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India and the caves are the focal point of the Hindu festival Thaipusam in Malaysia. The cave complex has been converted into a cult place in the nineteenth century when a trade man of Tamil origin, K. Thamboosamy Pillay, built a temple dedicated to the deity Murugan inside the caves of the rocky hill. Muruga’s glory and per-eminence arise due to various reasons: he ‘arrived’ on this planet as the son of Lord Siva, as the younger brother of Lord Ganesa and as the nephew of Lord Narayana. He is venerated as Kaliyuga Varada, the God who blesses and protects those who ardently seek His grace.

(© photo by Benson Kua)

(© photo by Benson Kua)

The Tamil merchant Pillay was inspired by the shape of the main cave entrance, which resembles the tip of the spear of war used by ancient Tamils ​​(the same one of the statue of Murugan, situated at the entrance of the caves). Since the year 1892, the Thaipusam festival is held in this sanctuary during the full moon in the Tamil month Thai (which falls between late January and early February).

(© photo by Trey Ratcliff)

(© photo by Trey Ratcliff)

A massive number of 272 concrete steps lead to the entrance of the cave at about 100 meters above ground level. Of the various temples that exist inside the caves, the largest and best known is the Cathedral Cave which houses several Hindu shrines beneath its huge vaulted ceiling. Most sanctuaries, full of statues and paintings, are devoted to the religious history of the Hindu deity Murugan.

(© photo by Ming Thein)

(© photo by Ming Thein)

The Batu Caves have become a place of devoted pilgrimage for Hindus, not only in Malaysia but also from countries such as India, Australia and Singapore. During the ceremonies of Thaipusam, devotees carry decorated containers containing milk as offering to Murugan. The containers are usually made of steel and can weigh up to 30 kilos. It’s also common that many devotees pierce their tongue or cheek where small spears called “Vel” (spear of war used by ancient Tamils) are inserted, to honor their deity Murugan. Some more painful ways of insertions have been banned in recent years due to the cruel spectacle by the many devotees.

(© photo by  Shahrul Rizal)

(© photo by
Shahrul Rizal)

(© photo by Shirari)

(© photo by Shirari)

The statue of Murugan is located at the entrance of the Sri Subramaniar temple at the foot of Batu Caves. With a height of 42.7 meters, it is the tallest statue in Malaysia and the second highest of a Hindu deity in the world, second only to the statue Kailashnath Mahadev in Nepal. For its construction 250 tons of steel, 1,550 cubic meters of concrete and 300 liters of gold paint were used. About 100,000 people have attended the presentation ceremony, during the Thaipusam festival in January 2006.

(© photo by Tunifun)

(© photo by Tunifun)

(© photo by Deven Hwang)

(© photo by Deven Hwang)

Inside the mountain there are several protected caves containing a wide variety of wildlife including some unique species, such as spiders or bats and the rare Rousettus Liphistiidae fruit. The inside of the mountain is a complex network of about two miles of relatively untouched caverns whose access is restricted by the local authorities to maintain the ecology system of the caves. The restricted parts can be accessed via the Society for the Conservation of Nature in Malaysia and on a regular basis trips are organized by the society to the interior of the restricted caves. The hill is also known for the many monkeys that inhabit it, and they may pose a danger to visitors as they have a strong territorial instinct.

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