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Batu Caves

Coordinates: 3°14′14.64″N 101°41′2.06″E / 3.2374000°N 101.6839056°E / 3.2374000; 101.6839056
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Batu Caves
Entrance to the cave complex with the Murugan statue in the front
Batu Caves is located in Selangor
Batu Caves
Location in the Klang Valley
Batu Caves is located in Peninsular Malaysia
Batu Caves
Geographic coordinates3°14′14.64″N 101°41′2.06″E / 3.2374000°N 101.6839056°E / 3.2374000; 101.6839056
TypeDravidian Architecture

Batu Caves (Tamil: பத்து மலை, romanized: Pathu malai) is a mogote with a series of limestone caves in Gombak, Selangor, Malaysia. It is located about 13 km (8.1 mi) north of the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. The cave complex consists many Hindu temples, the popular of which is a shrine dedicated to Hindu god Murugan. It is the focal point of the Tamil festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia. The complex also hosts of a 43 m (141 ft) high Murugan statue, one of the largest Murugan statues in the world.



The name for the cave complex is derived from the Batu Pahat River which flows nearby.[1][2] The word batu is derived from Malay meaning "rock".[3] The hill was called as "Kapal Tanggang" (ship of Si Tanggang) as per the Malay folktale Malin Kundang.[4] In Tamil, the temple complex is called as Pathu malai (பத்து மலை).[5]



The caves were used as shelters by the indigenous Temuan people, a tribe of Orang Asli.[2] In the 1860s, Chinese settlers began excavating guano from the caves, used as fertilisers.[6] In 1878, the caves were discovered by American naturalist William Hornaday.[7] K. Thamboosamy, an Indian Tamil trader, promoted the cave complex as a site of Hindu worship.[2] A Hindu temple dedicated to lord Murugan was completed in 1891 with the annual Thaipusam celebrations commencing in 1892.[1] Further development of religious sites have happened ever since in the region. Housing development around the region began in the late 20th century with non-governmental organisations expressing concerns about the over-development.[8]


Karst limestone formation

The complex is a mogote with a series of limestone caves, formed more than 400 million years ago.[9][10] It consists of a complex cave system of 20 recognized caves including four large cave systems with multiple inter-connected chambers.[4]

The speleothems were formed by the action of water falling on the surface percolating through the surface and interacting with the sub surface, resulting in dissolution of limestone rocks, resulting in the formation of stalactites and stalagmites. Stalactites jutting from the ceiling and stalagmites rising from the floor form intricate formations of cave curtains, flowstones, cave pearls and scallops. The interiors would have been damp and wet when the caves were being formed.[11][12]


The dark interior of the caves host many plant and animal species

The Batu cave system and its caverns is a biodiversity hotspot consisting of many plant and animal species, many of which are specific to such limestone environments.[13] About 269 species of vascular plants including 56 species (21%) of calciphiles have been recorded from the site.[14] There are a diverse range of cave fauna, including endemic species such as the trapdoor spider Liphistius batuensis.[15] There are 21 species of bats, including several species of fruit bats. The dark cave system is home to numerous species of insects including haplotaxids, spiders, mites, ticks, scorpions, springtails, beetles, fliers, ants, wasps, bees, butterflies, moths and other animals such as frogs, lizards, snakes and snails.[13][16][17]

The site is also home to numerous long-tailed macaques. The monkeys often depend on people for food and might cause disturbance or nuisance.[18] To preserve the cave's ecology, access is restricted in the inner cave complex which can be accessed by the educational trips organized by the Malaysian Nature Society. Development over the years, industrial activity and the high number of footfalls due to the religious site are threats to the biodiversity in the region.[13]

Religious site

Steps leading to the caves with the Murugan statue in the front

The similarity of the entrance to the cave structure to a vel (a spear) wielded by the deity Murugan is said to have inspired Thamboosamy to build a temple. The Subramaniar Swamy temple is located in the largest cave in the complex.[1] Initially, the hill has to be climbed upon by foot to reach the shrine. In 1920, wooden steps were installed to enable the pilgrims to reach the temple. In the 1930s, the stairs began to show signs of wear, and a decision was made to build concrete steps on the southern side of the cave complex. In 1940, 272 concrete steps were constructed, which exist till date.[19][20] In August 2018, the steps were re-painted with each set of particular number of steps painted in a different color.[21][22] In 2024, plans were unveiled to build a multi-purpose hall in the foothills and an escalator to the temple.[23]

The main shrine

At the base of the hill are two caves, Art Gallery Cave and Museum Cave, which form the Cave Villa complex. These consist of statues and paintings from Hindu mythology, most of them relating to life and stories of Murugan.[1] The Ramayana Cave is situated to the left, which consists of paintings from the Hindu epic Ramayana. There is a 15 m (49 ft) tall statue of Hanuman at the entrance and a temple dedicated to Hanuman, opened in November 2001.[1]

To the right of the steps which serve as an entrance to the cave complex, a 42.7 m (140 ft) tall statue of Murugan was unveiled in January 2006. Painted in gold, it is the amongst the tallest Murugan statue in the world and the tallest statue in Malaysia.[1][24]


Thaipusam procession at Batu caves

The Batu Caves serve as the focal point of the yearly Thaipusam (Tamil: தைபூசம்) festival, celebrated by Tamil Hindus. The temple attracts thousands of people for the elaborate festivities. Kavadi Aattam is a ceremonial act of sacrifice and offering practiced by devotees, which forms a central part of the festival.[25] Kavadi (meaning "burden" in Tamil) itself is a physical burden, which usually consists of two semicircular pieces of wood or steel which are bent and attached to a cross structure in its simplest form, that is balanced on the shoulders of the devotee and signifies a form of debt bondage.[26] Worshipers often carry pot(s) of cow milk as an offering (paal kudam). The most extreme and spectacular practice is the carrying of Vel kavadi, a portable altar decorated with peacock feathers and flowers, that is attached to the body of the devotee through multiple skewers and metal hooks pierced into the skin on the chest and back.[26][27]

People also do a form of mortification of the flesh by piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with vel skewers and flagellation. Vibuthi, a type of holy ash is spread across the body including the piercing sites. Drumming and chanting of verses help the devotees enter a state of trance.[28] Devotees usually prepare for the rituals by keeping clean, doing regular prayers, following a vegetarian diet and fasting while remaining celibate for 48 days.[29][27] A procession begins in the morning on Thaipusam from the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Kuala Lumpur. A silver chariot weighing 350 kg (770 lb) carrying the idols of Murugan with his consorts Valli and Deivanai is taken along the procession, accompanies by the devotees. After ritual bathing in the nearby Sungai Batu River, the devotees make their way to the temple.[27][30]

Rock climbing

Several scenes of the Batu Caves, 2022

The cave complex which exists on a hillock is a place for rock climbing. There are nearly 160 climbing routes on the north-eastern side of the cave complex, called as Damai caves. The routes are scattered across the sides with hills rising to 150 metres (490 ft). These climbing routes can be accessed from the ground level with abseiling and spelunking trips organised by local companies.[13][31]



Batu Caves can be reached by taking the commuter train from KL Sentral in Kuala Lumpur to the  KC05  Batu Caves Komuter station. Batu Caves may also be reached by bus 11 from Bangkok Bank stop near Central Market. Batu Caves can also be reached by car.[32]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e f "Batu caves". Britannica. Archived from the original on 15 August 2018. Retrieved 1 December 2023.
  2. ^ a b c Ashley Morton (12 August 2016). "Visiting Lord Murugan". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 8 September 2023. Retrieved 1 December 2023.
  3. ^ "Batu meaning". Merriam Webster. Archived from the original on 11 December 2023. Retrieved 1 December 2023.
  4. ^ a b Teckwyn, Lim; Sujauddin, Yusof; Mohd, Ashraf (2010). "The Caves of Batu Caves: a Toponymic Revision". Malayan Nature Journal. 62 (4): 335–348. Archived from the original on 2024-05-22. Retrieved 2024-05-22.
  5. ^ "History and Specialties of Batumalai Cave Murugan Temple in Malaysia Built by Tamils". Samayam (in Tamil). 25 June 2019. Archived from the original on 27 August 2023. Retrieved 1 December 2023.
  6. ^ "Multiracial history of Batu caves". 6 February 2023. Archived from the original on 22 May 2024. Retrieved 1 December 2023.
  7. ^ By Kon Yit Chin; Voon Fee Chen (2003). Landmarks of Selangor. Jugra Publications. p. 30. ISBN 978-9-814-06878-9.
  8. ^ "Explain land grants within Batu Caves reserve, NGOs tell Selangor". Free Malaysia Today. 10 September 2021. Archived from the original on 12 March 2024. Retrieved 12 March 2024.
  9. ^ "This 400 million-year-old cave site and temple in Malaysia is planning an escalator upgrade". CNN. 21 January 2024. Archived from the original on 24 March 2024. Retrieved 1 May 2024.
  10. ^ Indian Navy. Maritime Heritage of India. Notion Press. p. IV. ISBN 978-9-352-06917-0.
  11. ^ E. Soepadmo; Thian Hua Ho (1971). A Guide to Batu Caves. Malayan Nature Society. p. 10.
  12. ^ David Farley (2018). Underground Worlds:A Guide to Spectacular Subterranean Places. Running Press. ISBN 978-0-316-51400-2.
  13. ^ a b c d Ong, Dylan Jefri (2020). Kiew, Ruth; Zubaid Akbar Mukhtar Ahmad; Ros Fatihah Haji Muhammad; Surin Suksuwan; Nur Atiqah Abd Rahman; Lim Teck Wyn (eds.). Batu Caves: Malaysia's Majestic Limestone Icon. Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Cave and Karst Conservancy. p. 44. ISBN 978-967-17966-0-3. Archived from the original on 2024-05-22. Retrieved 2024-05-22.
  14. ^ Kiew, Ruth (12 September 2014). "Checklist of vascular plants from Batu Caves, Selangor, Malaysia". Check List. 10 (6): 1420–1429. doi:10.15560/10.6.1420. ISSN 1809-127X. Archived from the original on 22 October 2020. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  15. ^ T.W. Lim and S.S. Yussof (2009). "Conservation status of Batu Caves Trapdoor Spider (Liphistius batuensis Abraham (Araneae, Mesothelae)): A preliminary survey. 61: 121–132". Malayan Nature Journal. 62 (1): 121–132. Archived from the original on 2022-05-07. Retrieved 2020-05-12.
  16. ^ Annandale, N.; F.H. Gravely (1914). "The limestone caves of Burma and the Malay Peninsula, Part II: The fauna of the caves". Journal and Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. 9 (10): 402-423.
  17. ^ Elliott McClure (1965). "Microcosms of Batu Caves and a List of Species Collected at Batu Caves". Malayan Nature Journal. 19 (1): 68.
  18. ^ "Mugged by macaques: the urban monkey gangs of Kuala Lumpur". The Guardian. 28 January 2019. Archived from the original on 22 May 2024. Retrieved 1 December 2023.
  19. ^ "Were the 272 steps going up Batu Caves originally made of wood?". The Star. 3 February 2023. Archived from the original on 24 June 2023. Retrieved 1 December 2023.
  20. ^ Tajuddin, Iskandar (24 January 2016). "It began with prayer to Lord Muruga". New Straits Times. Archived from the original on 5 June 2021. Retrieved 5 June 2021.
  21. ^ Bavani, M. (30 August 2018). "Batu Caves temple committee steps into trouble". Star. Archived from the original on 11 December 2019. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  22. ^ "Temple gets stunning paint job". BBC. 31 August 2018. Archived from the original on 12 June 2019. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  23. ^ "Malaysia's Batu Caves temple to get escalator in 2024". Channel News. 19 January 2024. Archived from the original on 25 March 2024. Retrieved 1 May 2024.
  24. ^ "World's Tallest Lord Murugan Statue Unveiled in Tamil Nadu". News18. 8 April 2022. Archived from the original on 28 February 2023. Retrieved 1 December 2023.
  25. ^ Kent, Alexandra (2005). Divinity and Diversity: A Hindu Revitalization Movement in Malaysia. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-8-7911-1489-2.
  26. ^ a b Hume, Lynne (2020). Portals: Opening Doorways to Other Realities Through the Senses. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-0001-8987-2.
  27. ^ a b c "Malaysia's Thaipusam festival". BBC. 26 August 2011. Archived from the original on 26 November 2023. Retrieved 1 November 2023.
  28. ^ Javier, A.G. (2014). They Do What: A Cultural Encyclopedia of Extraordinary and Exotic Customs from Around the World. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 979-8-2161-5549-2.
  29. ^ Williams, Victoria (2016). Celebrating Life Customs Around the World: From Baby Showers to Funerals. ABC-CLIO. p. 334. ISBN 978-1-4408-3659-6.
  30. ^ Belle, Carl Vadivella (2018). Thaipusam in Malaysia. ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute. ISBN 978-9-8147-8666-9.
  31. ^ "Malaysia's Batu Caves, where spirituality meets adventure". The Times of India. 21 December 2022. Archived from the original on 8 January 2023. Retrieved 1 December 2023.
  32. ^ "Batu caves". Tourism Malaysia. Archived from the original on 25 September 2023. Retrieved 1 December 2023.

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