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Malaysia's Batu Caves: A memorable visit
During my visit of Malaysia in August 2014 for 5th International Conference and Field Study held at Institute for Rural Advancement (INFRA) Bangi, Selangor organized by Rural Research and Planning Group (RRPG) on the theme 'Managing Rural Change in a Turbulent World: Towards A Resilient and Sustainable Rural Society', I reached Batu Caves on August 29 by traveling KTM Komuter in Kuala Lumpur.
I saw Kailash Parvat to Kurukshetra to Ayodha and Janakpuri in Batu Caves. The presence of Hanuman in Ravan Darbar, Ravana's brother Vibhisan with Ram, Ram Darbar and Sita swayamvar in Janakpuri deserves to be noted.

It was, indeed, a pleasure to see the entire Indian wisdom of highest level to be understood, analyzed and interpreted by the human mind in ancient history. I was given to understand that Batu Caves is a limestone hill which have a series of caves and cave temples in the Gombak district, 13 kilometres north of Kuala Lumpur.

It takes its name from the Sungai Batu or Batu River, which flows past the hill. Batu Caves is also the name of the nearby village. The Batu cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is the focal point of Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia.

The limestone forming Batu Caves is said to be around 400 million years old. Some of the cave entrances were used as shelters by the indigenous Temuan people (a tribe of Orang Asli). As early as 1860, Chinese settlers began excavating guano for fertilizing their vegetable patches.

However, they became famous only after the limestone hills were recorded by colonial authorities including Daly and Syers as well as American Naturalist, William Hornaday in 1878.

Batu Caves were promoted as a place of worship by K. Thamboosamy Pillai, an Indian trader. He was inspired by the 'vel'-shaped entrance of the main cave and was inspired to dedicate a temple to Lord Murugan within the caves. In 1890, Pillai, who also founded the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Kuala Lumpur, installed the murti (consecrated statue) of Sri Murugan Swami in what is today known as the Temple Cave.

Since 1892, the Thaipusam festival in the Tamil month of Thai (which falls in late January/early February) has been celebrated there.

Wooden steps up to the Temple Cave were built in 1920 and have since been replaced by 272 concrete steps. Of the various cave temples that comprise the site, the largest and best known is the Temple or Cathedral Cave, so named because it houses several Hindu shrines beneath its high vaulted ceiling.

Rising almost 100m above the ground, the Batu Caves temple complex consists of three main caves and a few smaller ones. The biggest, referred to as Cathedral Cave or Temple Cave, has a very high ceiling and features ornate Hindu shrines. To reach it, visitors must climb a steep flight of 272 steps.

At the base of the hill are two more cave temples, Art Gallery Cave and Museum Cave, both of which are full of Hindu statues and paintings. This complex was renovated and opened as the Cave Villa in 2008. Many of the shrines relate the story of Lord Murugan's victory over the demon Soorapadam. An audio tour is available to visitors.

The Ramayana Cave is situated to the extreme left as one faces the sheer wall of the hill. On the way to the Ramayana Cave, there is a 50-foot (15 m) tall statue of Hanuman and a temple dedicated to Hanuman, the noble monkey devotee and aide of Lord Rama. The consecration ceremony of the temple was held in November 2001.

The Ramayana Cave depicts the story of Rama in a chronicle manner along the irregular walls of the cave.

A 42.7 metre (140 ft) high statue of Lord Murugan was unveiled in January 2006, having taken 3 years to construct. It is the tallest Lord Murugan statue in the world. To contain the essence of India, the visit of Batu Caves is a must for every visitor at Kuala Lumpur except those who cannot climb the steps to reach the Kailash Parvat- a center of the universe, the ultimate pilgrimage, the abode of Lord Shiva and Parvati.

I felt blessed and lucky to be in Malaysia where I found people in celebration mood of 57th Independence day on August 31. It is pertinent to mention that Malaysia got independence after 10 years of India but stands advanced in many areas. We have to learn many things from Malaysia for creation of advanced civic society with sense of commitment for progress in my beloved INDIA as independent, non-violent, democracy with integrity and amity.

I am deeply motivated to say that my vision of globalization as internationalization of Indianization stands confirmed in Batu Caves and have to go a long way in the entire world in mission mode with spiritual input and communication skills in English. May God bless us for the fulfillment of this vision of globalization which is perfectly in tune with the World Trade Organization (WTO).

(Dr. MM Goel is Professor of Economics & Former Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Kurukshetra University, Haryana- mmgoel2001@yahoo.co.in)

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