Thaipusam Festival at Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur

The visit to Batu caves outside KL was one of the most memorable experiences of our whole SouthEast Asia trip I would say. The system of 3 caves, with the Temple cave being the most popular one, is among the most important and sacred destinations for Indian pilgrims. We were lucky enough to visit the Caves during the Thaipusam festival and watch colourful processions climbing up a flight of around 300 steps, that lead to the temple inside the main cave, and engaging in sort of devotional feats.

The Muruga statue is considered to be the largest in the world

The Thaipusam is a Hindu religious holiday that takes place in January/February each year (the month of Thai according to the Tamil calendar), when the star Pusam is at its highest point. The holiday is celebrated in honor of Lord Muruga (Hindu God of War) all across Malaysia, Singapore and some parts of Thailand, but at Batu caves in Kuala Lumpur the celebrations are especially impressive.

The Hindu believe that through prayers and fasting, their sins can be cleansed during the festival. On the main day of the Thaipusam some of them shave their heads, dye them with red or yellow ochre,

…most of them put on yellow clothes and undertake a pilgrimage route engaging in different acts of devotion, namely carrying various types of kavadi (burdens). It can be anything from a pot of milk on their heads…

…or shoulders…

…to the cane sugar trees carried with one hand by bike 🙂

…to the huge metal frames decorated with Hindu God-images, flowers, peacock feathers…

…sometimes supported by small hooks and spikes piercing the bodies of frenetic devotees.

Just look at his back

They say, if you have a faith you don’t feel the pain. And surprisingly enough, there’s no blood…But still the holiday was even prohibited in India, its country of origin, because of severe self-injuries and self-harm caused.

Such kavadi processions are often accompanied with Hindu traditional songs and dances.

All of these pilgrims’ destination is Lord Murugan Temple hidden inside the main cave.

And one more temple magnificently lit in the darkness….

All these colourful ceremonies amuse local monkeys that sit by the entrance collecting admission fees in the form of bananas and other fruit… 🙂

The whole families come from different parts of SouthEast Asia and India to this sacred place to offer a kavadi to the Idol and get a blessing from Him in return.

Even little kids,

…even the ones who barely walk themselves,

…even older or sick people for whom such travel experience can be especially tough,

– everybody without exception engage in this sort of mass madness driven by deep faith and pure devotion. Pilgrimage to such sacred places becomes a priority in the lives of many Indians from early childhood. They bravely embark on these spiritual journeys after which their minds, bodies and souls are believed to be purified and cleansed of all sins and impurities.

Meanwhile, it was getting darker and so we had to leave. The midday heat was now over and going down a flight of 300 steps was definitely easier than climbing up.

On our way back to the train station we were passing through a colorful mini-Little India district with its traditional never-ending process of flower bead making done by men and women who, as we had already noticed traveling around India last year, consider it to be the occupation of their lifetime and treat it quite seriously.

Related posts:

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Bird Park at Lake Gardens, Kuala Lumpur

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One Response to Thaipusam Festival at Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur

  1. Alexander says:

    Not the easiest way to sanctify i’d say. Faith is their strenght. A boy with milk on his fase – great shot!

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