Mindblowing Facts about the Majestic Batu Caves
Published on February 8, 2020 | by astroulagam.com.my
Built in 1891, Batu Caves is not only the home to the temple of our beloved Lord Murugan but also a marvel that attracts people from all walks of life. It is as if the Gods themselves came down to build this magnificent temple in a 400 million-year-old cave.
The Cave Before the Temple
Batu Caves were pristine before 1860, except for some of the cave mouths that were used by the indigenous Besisi people as transit shelters when they went out hunting. By 1860, Chinese settlers began excavating guano to fertilise their vegetable patches. However, the caves only became famous after the limestone hills were discovered by William T. Hornaday, an American taxidermist of the United States National Museum in Washington and the first director of the New York Zoological Park (better known today as the Bronx Zoo).
Thamboosamy Pillai, the Indian Merchant
The influential merchant K. Thamboosamy Pillai, who also founded the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Dhevasthanam in Kuala Lumpur, sent his close associates, Sri Thiruvengadam Pillai, and Sri Kanthapa Thevar to look for an ideal and suitable place of worship for Lord Sri Murugan.
In 1891, Thamboosamy, a descendant of Indian immigrants from Tamil Nadu, installed the ‘deity of Lord Murugan in the 400 ft high temple Cave’.
It is said Thamboosamy was inspired to build the temple at Batu Caves when he noticed the mouth of the cave strongly resembled a ‘vel’ – the head of Lord Murugan’s celestial spear.
More than 1 Million Devotees at Thaipusam Celebration
The first Thaipusam festival in Batu Caves was celebrated in 1982 – the festivities continue to this day, attracting over a 1 million devotees every year. Devotees gather to celebrate the day when Lord Murugan received his divine vel from the goddess Parvati. The temple is filled with colour and scent of incense, while devotees carry majestic Kavadi and milk offerings to Lord Murugan.
Once it was 272 Wooden Steps
Devotees initially had to climb 272 wooden steps up to the Temple Cave. The wooden steps, that were built in 1920, have since been replaced by concrete steps. In August 2018, the steps were painted in gorgeous colours, with each set of steps painted in a different range of shades.
The Largest Lord Murugan Statue in the World
In January 2006, the now-iconic Murugan statue was unveiled. Standing at 42.7m high, it is the world’s tallest statue of Murugan and third tallest statue of a Hindu deity in the world, after the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Statue in Indonesia and Kailashnath Mahadev Statue in Nepal.
The statue is made of 1550 cubic metres of concrete, 250 tonnes of steel bars and 300 litres of gold paint brought in from neighbouring Thailand. This Murugan statue is landmark that attracts visitors from the world over to Batu Caves.
Batu Caves is also a fascinating location that caters to non-religious visitors. If you wish to explore the cave’s natural labyrinths, head to the Dark Cave for some amateur spelunking tours or try out some rock climbing at the back of the mountain.
What can we do at Kwai Chai Hong?
Plenty! Let’s take a look at what the founders suggest:
1. Start at the Entrance of Kwai Chai Hong
Beside the entrance arch, you will see four unique buildings built between 1884 and 1906. Although these buildings were built during British colonialism, they are believed to be built in the Guangdong Xi-Guan style with the narrow doors and windows and the lack of a five-foot walkway.
These four quaint looking buildings were famous for their blue doors and windows for many, many years. Today, they have been restored from their dilapidated state with some of the original windows still being displayed on the walls of Kwai Chai Hong.
2. Next, walk through the Arch which was built to look like it had been there with the original building but in fact, was newly erected in November 2018
This arch serves as a welcoming structure, the signature entrance to Kwai Chai Hong and one of the many perfect photo spots.
3. Beyond the arch is the famous ‘Red Bridge’ (Hong Qiao).
Contrary to the critics’ comments about this bridge not being the part of Kwai Chai Hong’s original makeup, this bridge was built to mask the back entrance of the restaurants that open outwards to Kwai Chai Hong’s entrance walkway.
With the building of the bridge and clever placements of bamboo plants, visitors will now be welcomed by a ‘Red Bridge’ beyond the Arch Entrance without the unpleasant distractions from the restaurants’ back doors. This is to ensure that all parties can co-exist and make the laneway work for everyone.
4. On the top of the bridge, the first interactive mural is presented.
Here, you will see a couple seated on the bridge and an audio – played via scanned QR Code – plays a conversation between the couple, reminiscent of the dating scene in the 1960s.
5. At the end of the bridge are a dozen of original windows from the Lorong Panggung 4 units of shops, hung up on display.
6. 15 steps form the bridge on the right is Kuala Lumpur’s Oldest Lamp Post, dating back to 1903-1904 when electricity first arrived in Kuala Lumpur.
This is called the ‘Century Old Lamp Post’. It was restored to be in a functioning state, by the way.
7.On the left side of Kwai Chai Hong – beyond the bridge, are several other murals (‘Er Hu Uncle’, ‘Kids Playing’, ‘Calligrapher’ and ‘Prostitute’) each depicting a scene from the 1960s.
At the end of the lane is a set of staircases that lead our visitors to a stunning two-and-a-half-storey mural – the signature look of Kwai Chai Hong. This giant-sized mural depicts the 1960s era of residences and businesses sharing a small unit.
This part also introduces the character of The Landlady, a common character, who would usually divide a single unit into many tiny rooms, and then go around collecting rent.
The giant-sized mural showcases significant buildings of the Chinese Community at the top of the mural – the Chin Woo Stadium being one of them. There are many other hidden messages within the mural such as our Hari Merdeka – study it long enough and you will spot it.
One can also see the livelihood of the people in the 1960s in the mural as well – coffee shops and other businesses on the ground floor, and residences on the first floor. You can also spot other installations for an interactive photo experience, such as the Barber (and his antique chair), a basket hanging down from the first floor, and a couple of kids playing a game of skipping rope.
8. Have a meal at the Bubble Bee Café.
This is definitely the best place to end the Kwai Chai Hong visit. Why? seriously yummy desserts and great coffee, that’s why! They’re also famous for their healthy wraps and juices.
So, there you go. You’ve got options for your #ootd, #potd and healthy doses of culture and history while you’re at it! Check out the place the next time you’re free, or if you’ve got nothing on this weekend, and take a trip down memory lane.
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