Batu Caves is a crop of limestone hill located in a small town of the same name in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
Also known as Sri Subramaniam Temple among the Hindus, Batu Caves is a famous religious site dedicated not just to Lord Murugan, the Hindu God of War, but also to all Hindu deities. Needless to say, it is a very sacred place for the Hindus.
The popularity of the attraction goes beyond Malaysia as it is also one of the most well-known Hindu shrines outside India. Every year, tens of thousands of devotees throng Batu Caves to celebrate Thaipusam, a Hindu festival.
The attraction is best known for the golden statue of Lord Murugan that stands majestically beside its entrance as well as the 272-step concrete stairs connecting its entrance to Temple Cave (also known as Cathedral Cave or the main cave).
The temple complex at Batu Caves includes three larger caves and a few smaller caves. The biggest among them, known as Cathedral Cave or Temple Cave is the one that requires visitors to ascend the 272-step stairs to reach it. There are also Ramayana Cave and Cave Villa.
- 1 Attraction Type
- 2 History
- 3 Key Attractions
- 4 Things to Note
- 5 Gallery
- 6 Getting There and Around
- 7 Opening Hours
- 8 Admission Fees
- 9 Contact Information
- 10 GPS Coordinates
- 11 Facilities
- 12 Parking
- 13 Travel Blog Mentions
Religious site and nature
The limestone at Batu Caves is said to be around 400 million years old.
Around 1860, Chinese settlers were excavating accumulated excrement of bats from the cave to fertilize their crops.
The cave became popular in 1878 after William Hornaday, an American biologist, documented it. In those days, it was a go-to spot for British couples to have picnics.
In 1890, K. Thamboosamy Pillai, an Indian trader, thought the entrance to the main cave looked like a vel, which is the divine javelin or spear that Lord Murugan is holding as depicted by the golden statue at the entrance of Batu Caves. He then decided to turn the caves into a place of worship by dedicating a temple to Lord Murugan.
Ever since 1892, Batu Caves is the key location for Hindus to celebrate the Thaipusam festival.
The construction of the golden statue of Lord Murugan was complete in January 2006. The structure has a height of 42.7 meters, and it is the tallest Lord Murugan statue in the world.
There are many things to see at Batu Caves. Depending on your schedule, you can spend as little as two to three hours or as much as a day there.
Main Cave / Temple Cave / Cathedral Cave
The main cave, also known as the Temple Cave or Cathedral Cave, is about 100 meters above the ground. Visitors have to climb the steep 272-step concrete stairs to reach the main cave.
Upon entering it, you will be greeted by a massive chamber which houses the main temple. There are also numerous statues with intricate design and mix of colors along the walls. The combination of lights coming from light bulbs and sunlight shining through the small holes in the ceiling makes it seem like there is a dark yellow tint over everything in you see.
Moving deeper into the main cave, there is another short flight of stairs leading to a smaller chamber without a ceiling. There is another temple here. The ongoing religious ceremonies at both these temples are always interesting to observe.
Around late January or early February every year, the Hindu community celebrate Thaipusam. In the Tamil calendar, Thaipusam falls on the full moon in the month of Thai (January / February).
The festival is to celebrate the day when Mother Goddess Parvati gave Lord Murugan a vel.
On this day, tens of thousands of Hindu devotees from all over the world throng Batu Caves to participate in the festival.
A procession will take place from the Sri Mahamariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur to Batu Caves. It starts as early as in the late evening on the day before Thaipusam, and it will reach Batu Caves in the wee hours of the morning the next day. Some devotees may organize their mini procession to Batu Caves from different parts of the city.
Devotees who are taking part in the Thaipusam festival will carry a container with milk, either by hand or in colorful carriers on their shoulders called ‘kavadi.’
The word ‘kavadi’ means ‘burden.’ The simplest form of kavadi, paal kavadi, involves carrying a pot of milk with hands or using the head, supported by one hand. While doing this, some may choose to have their skin, cheeks, and tongue pierced with a vel skewer. Others may hook oranges, limes or coconuts to their body.
A ‘kavadi’ can also be carriers made with semicircular pieces of wood or steel which devotees need to carry and balance on their shoulder. Fresh flowers, fruits, and peacock feathers are the typical decorations on these carriers. Some of them can be as heavy as 30 kilograms.
The most elaborate form of kavadi, vel kavadi, will send chills down your spine. Devotees who opt to carry this kavadi need to attach a portable shrine or altar, which can be as high as two meters, to their body. They do this by piercing hundred over vels (skewers or small spears with hooks) into the skin on their chest and back.
Towards the end of the festival, a Hindu priest will sprinkle consecrated ashes over the piercings on the devotees’ skin before removing the skewers.
Worshippers believe kavadi bearers enter a trance, allowing them not to bleed from their wounds, feel no pain, and have no scars left behind.
The Ramayana Cave, officially consecrated in November 2001, is a temple for Lord Hanuman. Lord Hanuman is a devotee and aide for Lord Rama.
If you enter Batu Caves’ compound using the entrance from the KTM Komuter Station, you should see a green statue depicting Lord Hanuman or the monkey god. The Ramayana Cave is beside the statue.
On the uneven walls of the cave, you can find Hindu statues portraying the story of Rama.
Just beside the base of the stairs, you can find the entrance to Cave Villa. Cave Villa houses a statue of Lord Vishnu, a Hindu deity, a pond teeming with carp, and a few shrines.
The shrines are full of Hindu statues and paintings that tell the story of how Lord Murugan defeated the demon, Soorapadman.
Dark Cave is a two-kilometer cave network that is untouched since its discovery. You can find interesting rock formations that took thousands of years to develop. They include flowstones, cave pearls and scallops and cave curtains.
Besides, you may come across creatures found nowhere else. One example will be liphistius batuensis, an endangered species of trapdoor spider.
The location of Dark Cave is slightly below the main cave. You can see it on your left as you ascend the stairs.
There are two types of guided tour to explore Dark Cave:
- Education Tour: Takes about 30 to 45 minutes.
- Adventure Tour: Takes about 3 hours and requires advance booking.
The tours will provide participants with a helmet and a headlamp for protection and to help them navigate in low-light conditions.
If you are participating in the Adventure Tour, expect to get dirty from all the climbing, sliding and crawling.
Batu Caves has more than 160 rock climbing routes. They are all over the limestone hill where Batu Caves is, but most of them concentrate on the North Eastern side called Damai Wall.
Some rock climbers have described Batu Caves as the perfect haven for new and aspiring climbers to get their first taste of rock climbing.
You can spend 4 to 6 hours learning rock climbing from the companies providing guided rock climbing services at Batu Caves. Some of them can even let you try abseiling and spelunking.
You do not need prior rock climbing experience to climb the limestone hill at Batu Caves because the guides will teach you:
- the basics of rock climbing
- the safety measures of rock climbing
- how to use climbing equipment, and
- the climbing techniques you need
Things to Note
- Mornings and evenings are the best times to visit Batu Caves because there is little shade or shelter from the sun when you are climbing the stairs.
- Monkeys or macaques wandering along the stairs leading to the main cave may bite. Make sure you do not have any plastic bag or food with you before climbing the stairs.
- Do not smile at the monkeys because they may perceive it as a display of force or a threat.
- Visitors in short dresses, short pants, and hot pants need to rent a scarf for RM3 (with an additional RM2 as refundable deposit) at the base of the stairs.
- Hold on to the handrail as you climb the stairs.
- Keep your volume down if there is a religious ceremony going on.
Getting There and Around
Even though it is quite far from the city center, one can reach Batu Caves conveniently.
Taking a train from KL Sentral or Kuala Lumpur KTM Station is the most convenient way to reach Batu Caves.
Here are the steps to follow:
- Go to KL Sentral’s main concourse at Level 1.
- Look for KTM Komuter. The ticket counters are just beside the entrance to the platforms.
- Buy your tickets to Batu Caves.
- Find the platform that you should go to by looking for “Batu Caves” on the electronic display above the entrances for KTM Komuter. Alternatively, you can ask the staff-on-duty.
- Get off when the train arrives at Batu Caves KTM Komuter Station.
- Follow the signs pointing you towards the entrance to Batu Caves.
- After entering Batu Caves’ compound, continue walking straight for about 5 minutes. The iconic golden statue of Lord Murugan should come into sight.
KTM Komuter trains have ladies-only carriages. Pink labels on the floor indicate the platform sections where these carriages will stop.
By Ride-hailing Services
If you have never used either of these services before, here are the steps to register an account:
- Click on this link to register a GRAB account.
- Download GRAB to your mobile phone from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
- Open the app and follow the steps to sign in.
- Select your pickup spot.
- Search for “BATU CAVES” and use it as your drop-off spot.
- Click on “Book” and a driver will be on his or her way.
- Click on this link to register an Uber account.
- Download Uber to your mobile phone from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
- Open the app and follow the steps to sign in.
- Set your pickup location by either searching for it or by moving the pin on the map.
- Tap on the “+” icon beside your pickup location.
- Search for “Batu Caves” and tap on it to set your destination.
- Tap on “REQUEST uberX” and a driver will be on his or her way.
Taking a ride from the city center to Batu Caves using either these services will cost around RM15 to RM25, depending on traffic conditions. However, these apps will show you the approximate fare before you confirm your request.
Most taxi drivers know the directions to Batu Caves.
Some of them may quote exorbitant fares for travelers heading towards the famous religious site, citing poor traffic conditions, the long distance or other excuses. Insist on paying according to the meter or at least a reasonable fixed fare.
Use a ride-hailing service if you cannot find a taxi driver who is willing to cooperate.
The following is a list of estimated taxi fares from key attractions around Kuala Lumpur to Batu Caves:
- Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) to Batu Caves: RM90 to RM140
- PETRONAS Twin Towers to Batu Caves: RM20 to RM30
- Bukit Bintang to Batu Caves: RM25 to RM35
- Petaling Street (Chinatown) to Batu Caves: RM20 to RM30
- Mid Valley Megamall to Batu Caves: RM28 to RM45
- KL Tower to Batu Caves: RM22 to RM35
The estimated fares above are for budget taxis. The final amount may vary due to traffic conditions. Also, the estimated fares above do not include the 50% midnight surcharge.
Taxi drivers will drop you off at the entrance of Batu Caves where you can see the golden statue of Lord Murugan clearly.
Opens daily from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm.
Mondays to Fridays: 10:00am to 5:00pm.
Saturdays, Sundays & Public Holidays: 10:30 am to 5:30 pm.
Adult without MyKad: RM15
Adult with MyKad: RM7
RM1 per person.
Dark Cave Tours
Child Below 10 Years Old: RM25
Adventure Tour (children below 12 years old not allowed)
Adult without MyKad: RM80
Adult with MyKad: RM55
+60 3 6189 6284
- Toilet (at the base of the stairs)
RM2.00 per entry.
Travel Blog Mentions
Christian Lucas Sangoyo, a travel blogger from the Philippines, visited Batu Caves in June 2016. It was his first visit even though he has flown 16 times to Kuala Lumpur before this. Overall, he found Batu Caves to be an enchanting place to visit, albeit much to his surprise.
If you want to see great photos coming out of a Thaipusam Festival at Batu Caves, there is no better place to go to than this blog post published by Nate Robert. Aside from the vivid photos, he also shared the story of Lord Murugan with a slight twist of humor.
Image Credits: bianca polak