Reputed to be over 400 million years old, the majestic Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur’s Gombak district are among the most popular of Hindu shrines in Malaysia and they attract thousands of worshippers and tourists every year.
Comprising of three main caves as well some smaller ones, this eerie labyrinthine complex is a wonderful place to explore, whether you are on a cultural jaunt, a spiritual quest, or just fancied some sightseeing.
Visitors to this limestone mountain are greeted by an imposing golden statue of Lord Murugan, the Hindu god of war to whom the caves are dedicated. At 42.7 metres high, it is the tallest statue dedicated to a Hindu deity in Malaysia and is staggeringly beautiful close up.
At this point, brace yourself for the arduous ascent up the 272 steps which lead to the Cathedral or Temple Cave. As you climb, keep an eye out for cheeky macaque monkeys as they dart among the tourists and bear in mind, they are not adverse to a bit of pickpocketing.
At the top, catch your breath as you make your way into the 100-metre high main chamber of the Cathedral Cave. The cavernous temple within is home to a revered mix of ornate Hindu shrines and descriptive artwork which detail various Hindu legends. Similarly, the adjacent Art Gallery and the Museum caves both feature statues and paintings of sacred Hindu deities.
If you want to learn about the various ecosystems in this hillside, take a scientific tour down into the Dark Caves. This two-kilometre stretch of surveyed passages is home to an abundance of ancient flora and fauna, including the endangered Trapdoor Spider. This is a terrific way to learn about this unique natural habitat but bear in mind that exploring this cave is quite a physical challenge as some crawling is required.
Every year between January and February, millions of devotees flock to the Batu Caves to celebrate the Hindu festival of Thaipusam. This three-day event, dedicated to thanksgiving and penance, is renowned for its colourful parades and extreme ceremonial rituals, some of which include piercing the body with hooks and skewers. Attending this sacred Hindu celebration is a real privilege, so where possible, schedule it into your itinerary.