Monday, February 23, 2009

Temple in a Cave

We continue our nomadic wanderings with a stop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, home of the majestic and truly elegant Petronas Towers. We enjoy cheap shopping, delicious food, gentle people (excluding the opportunistic cab drivers who get their kicks from gauging tourists) and tropical weather.

We make a small journey just 8 miles north of the city to find an enchanted cave filled with a series of Hindu temples and shrines - the Batu (aka Bat - yes, we saw some) Caves.

Ganesha welcomes us, with dozens of replica's of himself at the base of the cave, guarding and protecting this holy place.

We embark on an eternal staircase, our legs quivering like jelly once we finally reach the top only to find that there is another staircase to the inner cave in front of us, luckily, not as long and torturous.

Each year, during the Thaipusam festival, over a million devoted Lord Murugan worshippers, having performed cleansing rituals such as fasting and praying (and for others some more intense symbolic gestures such as body piercing), hike the 8 hour journey to these sacred caves and up the eternal staircase from the Sri Mahamarianmman Temple in Kuala Lumpur. Some pull or carry heavy "burdens" to symbolize their sacrifice. These offerings or Kavadi are often milk-filled vessels carried on their heads. And here I am complaining after having been driven here in an air-conditioned taxi only to hike a "measly" 272++ steps and my only weight is my digital camera!

Okay, chalo...let's go in.

We're greeted by several colorful small shrines along the way to the inner cave as well as a few vendors' booths for the tourists who feel like getting trapped.

We wander (ahem...) I mean, I wander around the cave as Mahesh sits like the Buddha waiting patiently for his curious wife to get her daily fill of Indian culture. Whatever, he so loves this. Riiiiight.

We remove our shoes as we near the main temple. The stone cools our bare feet, though at the same time, I'm wondering how many bare feet have stood here and if the floor is ever cleaned. Nevermind, I comfort myself with a healthy dose of denial.

A popular kirtan hymn gently echoes off the towering limestone cave walls.

Cool droplets of water occasionally drip on our heads from above. We watch the droplets twinkle as they fall as if in slow motion while the sun cascades down through holes in the ceiling of the cave illuminating everything it touches.

Suddenly, we feel the wind that can only be from the flapping wings of a family of bats as they whizz by overhead.

The faint and sometimes strong scent of incense wafts through the blessedly cool cave air.

A priest in his simple garb is busy at work preparing an offering. Mischievous monkeys watch him closely. They turn their heads to a newly arriving group of rowdy tourists and lurk about trying to be cute and just wait for someone to be foolish enough to take out a snack or something shiny which the monkeys see as rightfully their own and you can be sure that they'll clearly indicate this by force more often than not.

There seems to be so much activity and movement depicted on the temples. My camera zooms in to see the story they tell.

No...go even closer.

A spirit with many stories to tell resides here.


Braja said...

Your photos are beautiful as always...and this is a side of KL I missed. I loved this're really trotting around Asia, aren't you ? :)

Elisa Day said...

I love this post, thank you for sharing. Wonderful images

Anonymous said...

How beautiful!

Chandan said...

HI S, lovely post and pictures. Love hw you have cropped the Natraj pic.
Have fun :-)

Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

Another wonderful post - love this trip you're taking us on - thank you so much for your generosity in sharing so much...
Superb images, as always..:)

Anil P said...

Beautiful figurines. The colouring is very striking.

Shireena said...

Thanks! Yes, we're traveling around - difficult being without a home, but trying to enjoy the moment. Glad you like this post! Definitely worth the visit next time you're in KL.

Hi Elisa,
Thanks for your comments!

Hi Aditi,
Thanks for visiting!

Nice to hear from you and no I haven't forgetten about your tag. =)

Thanks for the warm compliments! I love hearing from you.

Thank you for stopping by. Take care.

Anonymous said...

You are amazing. Not only is this breathtaking but it leaves me wondering what else you are capable of doing! I think you have a lot of talent here and I hope we will be lucky enough to see you blossom further wherever this road may take you. Truly awesome!

mimi said...

ah what an experience!!!

Manasa said...

Lovely set of pics. :)

I also heard there's an idol of Lord Vishnu at Malaysia airport. Though, am not very sure of this.

Angel.Pearls said...

Great pictures! Have a nice trip!!// Eva

Goli said...

Nice blog and great pictures...