This is a long overdue respond to requests from Facebook friends for more info about the ‘mountain’ Hana and I climb every Sunday.
The ‘mountain’ is actually a long flight of steps leading to some caves in a limestone hill – caves which house several Hindu shrines.
It is a sacred place for Hindus. Called “Batu Caves”, which literally means “Stone Caves”, it is situated about 7 miles from Kuala Lumpur.
There are also several temples at the foot of the hill and devotees show up as early as 6:30am to take part in prayers.
Batu Caves is known for the annual festival of Thaipusam, when close to a million devotees and tourists make their way to the caves.
Thaipusam is the birthday celebration of the Hindu deity Subramaniam. It is also the time when devotees fulfill vows by carrying or pulling huge ‘kavadis’ with hooks attached to their skin or iron rods piercing their cheeks.
If you are squeamish, then scroll quickly past the next photo.
Not everyone has to inflict such pain on themselves to fulfill a vow. Many carry on their heads a simple urn filled with fresh milk.
One has to be there to view and appreciate the beauty of the limestone caves. These photos, taken with my smartphone will give you an idea of what to expect.
The view of the steps and the huge statue of Lord Murugan at dawn is a sight to behold.
Oh, did I mention the pigeons? There are hundreds of them that tamely crowd the empty space leading to the steps.
Aside from the religious rituals, the steps at Batu Caves have become a popular exercise spot for all races. Many climb the 272 steps to improve their fitness levels while some do it as part of their training to climb Mount Kinabalu in East Malaysia.
I am full of admiration for those who climb the steps effortlessly. Granted, they have been doing it for a long time, nevertheless, it is an enviable feat.
Many of the regulars help the priests carry their wares and offerings up the steps. Trust me, it really works your legs when you’re carrying a load that weighs close to 5kg.
The first few weeks were tough. We had to catch our breath a few times at each climb. We have since progressed to making two quick stops along the way and finishing 4 climbs a week.
The only downside from the experience is the stench along the steps. I suspect it comes from the droppings and urine of the monkey population.
It helps when it rains the night before to wash away some of it.
We have since move on to other weekend activities like visiting the park and the hot spring.
The lack of fresh air played a big part in encouraging us to look for ‘healthier’ alternatives.
Batu Caves is however one place you need to visit and experience at least once.
If you don’t mind large crowds, then Thaipusam would be a good time to be there. Not me, though. I stay away from sales in malls to avoid crowds.
Hope you enjoyed my brief description of Batu Caves. If you have similar experiences to share or have a question to ask, please leave a comment. 🙂