Batu Caves, is a limestone hill, which has a series of caves and cave temples, located in Gombak district, 13 kilometers (8 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 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 Caves is the most popular Hindu shrine outside India, dedicated to Lord Murugan only next to Kathirkamam, Sri Lanka. It is the focal point of Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia.
VEERA TAMILAN THAMBOOSAMY PILLAI
The Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Devasthanam (SMMTD) has an interesting history. It was founded by the late Kayarohanam Pillai Thamboosamy Pillai (pic) in 1873, one of the pioneer leaders of the Indian community in colonial Malaya.
Born in 1850 in Singapore and educated at the Raffles Institution, Mr. K. Thamboosamy Pillai gained popularity and prominence through the course of his work as an interpreter and Assistant with the then senior lawyer, JG Davidson. His work took him to Kuala Lumpur, Malaya and during this course he discovered that a large number of Indians from South India had settled in a neighbouring state called Selangor. Being a Hindu devotee, he decided to build a small worship house for the Hindu deity of protection known as Mariamman. He built this worship house at a river bank in Selangor (where the present Bangunan Pertanian is located).
In 1875, the Kuala Lumpur railway authorities offered an alternative site for Mr. K. Thamboosamy’s worship house as they wanted an extension to their goods yard. With the permission of then Sultan Selangor, a small ‘attap’ temple was built in Jalan Bandar, Kuala Lumpur (presently known as Jalan Tun HS Lee). The Sultan of Selangor demarcated the temple land as ‘Land for the Indian Community’.
Mr. K. Thamboosamy Pillai was a visionary man. In 1888, he transformed the ‘attap’ temple into a brick building with the support from the local community. People from all walks of life donated generously towards the temple building project. Mr. K. Thamboosamy Pillai became the first “Stanigar” (founder) of the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Devasthanam in Malaysia.
The Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Devasthanam is administered by a group of learned and prominent Hindu devotees after the demise of the founder Sri K. Thamboosamy Pillai in 1902. On 5th September 1928, a religious body was established to bring all the charitable organizations and the Mariamman Temple under this fold for a proper management and control. This case was submitted to the Supreme Court through civil action in 1928. After a long deliberation, the Selangor Supreme Court established the Religious Charity known as the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Kuala Lumpur. Based on the Court order dated 28th November 1930, the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, Kuala Lumpur, the Sri Ganesar Temple, Old Pudu Road and Sri Subramaniaswamy Temple Batu Caves came under the administration of the Board of Management of the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Devasthanam. Mr. Thamboosamy passed on 1902 and donated much of the wealth to the temple. He was the most powerful name ever to be reckoned with before independence of Malaya.
It was in this temple premises that the Malaysian Indian Congress Party (MIC) was first founded by the late Sri Sir John A. Theviry, a prominent lawyer from Ipoh, Perak along with his close associates. 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 / Besisi 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 was 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 Muruga within the caves.
The history of Batu Caves started in 1891 when Mr. K. Thamboosamy Pillai, who also founded the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Devasthanam, Kuala Lumpur, sent his very close associates, Sri Thiruvengadam Pillai and Sri Kanthapa Thevar to survey for an ideal and suitable place of worship for Lord Sri Murugan. It was in that year, that the influential descendant of Indian immigrants came from Tamil Nadu, India. Mr. K. Thamboosamy Pillai installed the ‘murti’ or consecrated idol of Sri Subramaniar Swamy (Lord Murugan) in the 400 ft high Temple Cave.
The following year, the Thaipusam festival in the Tamil month of Thai (which falls in late January/early February) has been celebrated there as the annual festival of Batu Caves. Wooden steps up to the Temple Cave were built in 1920 and have since been replaced by 272 concrete steps. First Thaipusam was celebrated in 1892 at Batu Caves.
THE GOLDEN STATUE OF MURUGAN
Standing at 42.7 m (140 ft) high, the world’s tallest statue of Murugan, a Hindu deity, is located outside Batu Caves, near the city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The statue, which cost approximately 24 million rupees, is made of 1550 cubic metres of concrete, 250 tonnes of steel bars and 300 litres (45kg) of gold paint brought in from neighbouring Thailand.
Rising almost 100 m 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 100 m-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 Soorapadman.
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.
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