KLM uses cookies.

KLM’s websites use cookies and similar technologies. KLM uses functional cookies to ensure that the websites operate properly and analytic cookies to make your user experience optimal. Third parties place marketing and other cookies on the websites to display personalised advertisements for you. These third parties may monitor your internet behaviour through these cookies. By clicking ‘agree’ next to this or by continuing to use this website, you thereby give consent for the placement of these cookies. If you would like to know more about cookies or adjusting your cookie settings, please read KLM’s cookie policy.

Selaimesi näyttää olevan vanhentunut.
Jotta voisit käyttää kaikkia KLM.com-sivuston ominaisuuksia turvallisesti, suosittelemme päivittämään selaimesi tai valitsemaan toisen selaimen. Jos jatkat selaimesi nykyisellä versiolla, kaikki verkkosivuston osat eivät välttämättä näy kunnolla tai ollenkaan. Lisäksi henkilökohtaisten tietojesi turvallisuus voidaan taata paremmin, jos käytät päivitettyä selainta.

 

The enormous Batu caves

Only 15 kilometres north of Kuala Lumpur lies the most popular Hindu sanctuary outside of India: the Batu caves. The series of caves is decorated with a large number of colourful, painted images of Hindu gods. The largest cave can be reached after climbing 272 steps – an enormous steep stairway not only used by pilgrims and tourists, but also by monkeys. Every year, the frenzied Thaipusam festival takes place at these caves.

For a long time, the existence of these caves was not widely known. It was only at the end of the 19th century that an American biologist stumbled across the caves by accident. A small altar was built in the enormous cave, which would later be renamed the Temple Cave. Even though many more religious statues now fill the cave, the most impressive remains the 100-metre--high cave itself. In a smaller cave at a lower level you'll find many more colourful gods depicting stories from Hindu mythology.

Statue of Hindu god Murugan
Statue of Hindu god Murugan

Kuala Lumpur

Frequently rediscovered

The chalk rock formations in which the caves are found are approximately 400 million years old. The caves are named after the Batu River, which flows through the Gombak district north of Kuala Lumpur. Until the official discovery of the caves, they were mostly inhabited by bats. In the 19th century Chinese migrants frequently entered the caves to harvest guano (bat faeces) to fertilise their fields. Traces of Malaysia’s original inhabitants have also been discovered in the caves. Only at the beginning of the last century did the caves become popular with the general public.

Indians were especially drawn to these caves. Large numbers of Indians had moved to Malaysia during British colonisation. They brought their Hindu religion with them and found in the caves the perfect spot to worship Murugan, the god of war and victory. Since then, the Batu caves have been mostly dedicated to this deity.

The ‘skylight’ of the Temple Cave

The colourful Thaipusam festival

Once a year, as hundreds of thousands of Hindus gather at the Batu caves to celebrate the Thaipusam, the site is literally crawling with pilgrims. In addition to the devotees, this exceptionally colourful occasion also draws many spectators. Most unique are the kavadis: ‘burdens’ that are carried up the stairs by devout visitors. As proof of their devotion, people attach the kavadis to their body with hooks that pierce the skin, cheeks and tongue. In exchange for this painful dedication, devotees hope for the grace of God Murugan. A 43-metre-high golden statue of the god towers over the throngs.

A kavadi pierces the tongue and cheeks

Photo credits

  • A kavadi pierces the tongue and cheeks: Kjersti Joergensen, Shutterstock