Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Kuala Lumpur - Batu Caves

Kuala Lumpur is located at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak Rivers. Ancestors of the Orang Asli settled here some 5000 years ago.  They were pioneers of a general movement from China and Tibet. The Malays followed, bringing farming and later strong links existed with China and India.  The Hindu Buddhist era preceded the Islam era which came in the 13th century.  1511 Melaka was conquered by the Portuguese.  1541 The Portuguese were overthrown by the Dutch.  1786 Francis Light founded a trading post on Penang Island.  1819 Thomas Stanfor Raffles established a trading post at Singapore.  The Federated Malay States was founded in 1896 as a British Protectorate with Kuala Lumpur as it's capital.
The largest of the Batu Caves, Cathedral Cave, was transformed into a Hindu temple in 1891.  It is reached by climbing 272 steps (believe me). The temple is dedicated to the Hindu god, Lord Murugan (otherwise known as Lord Subramaniam).  The golden statue of Lord Murugan is 141 feet tall, the largest statue of Lord Murugan in the world, was crafted by 15 Indian sculptors, and painted with 300 litters of gold pain costing RM2.5 million.  Lord Murugan is the Hindu deity of war and victory and son of Ganesh, the elephant headed god. There is also a huge statue of Hanuman, the monkey god (which might explain the presence of so many monkeys)  -- reference- "Globetrotter Travel Guide of Malaysia" by Helen Oon.
On the train to the Batu Caves I met two Fillipina tourists from Manilla, one an antique dealer and the other, a human resources person for a commercial tugboat firm.  They declined climbing the stairs but found some other way up to the caves. When I asked them how they'd got there, "I have a broom", said one and the other said, "I have angel's wings".  They were very pleasant companions for the brief visit, the kind of encounters one makes travelling,  a shared place and time.
I loved the monkey mother and child I saw on the way up the stairs.
There were several Hindu shrines in the caves and at the furthest and highest in, I joined a circle where a monk, put white paste on each of our foreheads, and we put money on his plate.  I thought it a fair exchange under the circumstances.  He even stopped to consider me a moment as he smeared the paste on my forehead. I was reminded of a similar experience years ago in Bombay.
I'd taken my shoes off as required when I walked into the first of the temples, before I'd even reached the caves. There, a wedding was taking place. I never did put my shoes back on until before I descended the stairs.  It was a communal experience. I didn't feel it was a place to sit and meditate.  The floor was damp and my shirt was wet from exertion. In this hot humid climate ,these cool caves would have been a wonderful place of respite.
At the base of the stairs, I entered a shop where the owner helped me buy a fresh shirt. I changed and stuffed my wet one in my packsack. Now I'm wearing this perfect black and white intricate designed Malaysian shirt.

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