Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Visit to the Batu Caves and the Sri Mahamariamman Temple

Murugan temple. A pandit prepares for a puja ceremony.

The Batu Caves are actually quite far from central Kuala Lumpur, but thankfully getting there is as easy as hopping into a train near my hotel and getting off in the station named "Batu Caves". Ironic that getting to my workplace is far more difficult than getting to a cave.

The giant gilded statue of Murugan can be seen from the train even from afar. After I arrived, a tourist approached me and handed his SLR to me and grunted some incomprehensible word. I understood though that he wanted to have his photo taken, and being the hospitable Filipino that I am I happily did so. With all smiles I also handed my camera to him and politely asked to take a photo of me, but the jerk dismissively waved his hands and walked away. Resentfully I set up my tripod and just took self-portraits, after giving the bastard the evil eye.

The Lord Murugan. Even gods get love-handles.

It takes a grueling 272 steps to get to the cave entrance. I had to stop every 50 steps or so to catch my breath while trying my luck to get a good photo of the numerous monkeys running around, which look really cute begging and trying to steal some food from the visitors. I don't think I'd ever get tired watching these little critters. I was careful around them though as I didn't watch catch rabies.

The rock formations and the natural lighting inside the cave are impressive in itself. There are small shrines for various Hindu deities scattered around, but the icing on the cake was the Murugan Temple in the innermost part of the cave. The way the sunlight from a cave opening illuminates the temple was quite dramatic. It would have really looked astounding in photograph, but I was captivated so much that forgot I was shooting at very high ISO, resulting to a crappy image quality. But even so, it doesn't look that bad at all.

It's a working temple, that is, it isn't for display purposes only. There was actually a puja ceremony going on with the assigned pandit assisting about a dozen devotees, despite the noisy crowd and camera flashes.

Getting my way back was a lot harder now that I could see how high up I really was. It didn't help that I was going counterflow against pushy Korean tourists who believe they have the sole priviledge of holding onto the rails just because they're on a package tour.

Tranquility and beauty.

The Cave Villa
There is a Cave Villa nearby which one could enter for a meager fee. It's a shame that most tourists just seem to pass it by as it is really worth seeing. The cave villa entrance can be reached via a series of walkways and small pavillions over a pond with carps and swans and a little waterfall flowing onto it. I decided to stay a bit longer here to drink in the peaceful atmosphere.

The first part of the cave villa features a series of diorama about the Hindu religion, most of the writings I didn't quite get though, but the drawings were fascinating in an eerie way. Deeper into the cave was a mini-reptile zoo which actually looks like a mad scientist's lab to me. I was very paranoid walking around fearing I might tip over a glass cage containing a deadly snake. There were also weird looking turtles and fish on display, probably several other animals too - I didn't want to linger around too much so I didn't get to see much.

An impressive sculpture at the entrance to the Cave Villa.

Eerie dioramas.

Going deeper into the cave.

A huge snake greets you near the entrance.

A big cage. I don't even want to know what's in there.

A fish with a twisted mouth.

The Sri Mahamariamman Temple along Jalan Tun H.S. Lee

Sri Mahamariamman Temple

The Sri Mahamariamman Temple is founded by the same person who was said to have discovered the Batu Caves. It is the starting point of the Thaipusam procession ending in the Batu Caves, which is quite a long walk. It is also the oldest functioning temple in Malaysia. However, it is so newly painted and garishly colorful you would think you're in Disneyland. It's all pretty, but somewhat sterile.

The colorful interiors.

Jai Durga Ma!

Sri Murugan mural.



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