Ritual/Festival – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Ritual/Festival – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

“The Batu caves are a very beautiful and spiritual place. Before any of my major exams, such as my A-Levels, my family and I visit a Hindu temple in the cave to pray for good fortune. The caves are found on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and are a very popular tourist attraction. There is also a lot of flora and fauna in the area; you often see a lot of monkeys and bats, most of the caves are littered with their guano.  To get to the temple in the caves you have to walk up something like 200 steps. The annual Thaipusam festival though, is the reason you should visit the caves. Sometimes as many as a million pilgrims converge to the Hindu temple inside, most with huge things called ‘kavadi’ on their shoulders. Kavadi are decorated shoulder carriers that contain milk as offerings to the deity at the shrine. It is quite common to see individuals in a religious fervor, carrying these huge offerings up more than 200 steps. It is a sight to behold. ”

Verun reminisces the times when he had to make short trips to the Batu cave shrine before his exams for good luck. He explained that he partook in this ritual because he truly believed that it brought good fortune. He encourages people that plan to visit Malaysia to make it a point and visit the Batu caves, be it for spiritual enlightenment or just as an avid tourist. He feels that it “deserves to be seen by everybody,” and adds that “It’s free entrance and I think it’s really cool, the place is beautiful, you don’t have to be religious to appreciate it.”

Verun was born in America and saw the Batu caves for the first time at a very young age, he cannot recall exactly when, during a visit to Malaysia. He explained that although he was born in America, both his parents are Indian and he identifies himself as Malaysian, mainly because he has lived there since he was 5 until returning to the U.S. for college. He learnt the prayers and rituals performed at the shrine from his parents who are also Hindu.

While I have not been to the Batu Caves before I have been exposed to it a lot in the media, especially in religious documentaries. Apparently, the cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India and is dedicated to Lord Murunga.The Thaipusam festival Verun mentioned is the reason the Batu caves gets a lot of media attention.

The focal point of this piece of folklore is neither the Batu caves nor the Thaimpusam festival, but the act of praying at the shrine for good luck.  This is a ritual I can greatly relate to, my parents always take me to a temple to pray before any final exams or important events. However, praying at the Batu caves holds a higher significance to Verun due to its rich religious background, and the spiritual environment it is in. I personally believe it is a valuable and important ritual, although I am not religious, I do believe in spiritual cleansing and just clearing the mind before an important venture. I would recommend the same to everyone I know.

Annotation: for further reading on the Batu caves refer to  ‘Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei’ by Charles de Ledesma, Mark Lewis, Pauline Savage, 2003 on page 136.