Batu Caves, Selangor, Malaysia


We found ourselves in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia for a few days and spent a few hours at Batu Caves. These caves have become a Hindu temple complex and cultural centre.

Murugan statue at Batu Caves

Upon arrival the spectacular golden statue of Murugan, the largest in the world, greeted us. It was absolutely enormous, and behind were tall cliffs and a staircase of 270 steps (so we were told, we didn’t count them). Climbing the steep steps and avoiding the monkeys hanging around, we entered the main cavern area. It was easily the most spacious cave I have ever been in. Walking through were several temples, and statues of Hindu gods and goddesses dotted around. The temples are still very much in use; many Hindus were visiting, bringing offerings such as flower wreaths and milk to the shrines of gods.
We looked around and made donations (it’s free entry) and check out the souvenirs on sale. Fortunately there were no pushy sellers.

Returning to the bottom of the staircase, we paid the small entrance fee to visit Cave Villa, an Indian arts and cultural centre. We crossed a walkway over a koi pond and watched a short performance of Indian Bollywood-style dance, performed every hour on the hour while we were there.

There was a reptile house in one of the caves which made us wish we hadn’t come to Cave Villa. The reptiles were kept in inhumane conditions and cramped tanks and the staff persisted in asking us to have our photo taken with a reptile (for MYR10) even after we had refused several times. Back outside we walked past the aviary where a variety of birds (and, oddly a skunk) were kept. After we had said clearly that we didn’t want our photos taken with a bird, the staff member just dumped a bird on my husband’s shoulder, as if he would want it if it happened to him. He continued to ask for the bird to be removed repeatedly, while I avoided taking any photos so as not to get asked for a MYR10 fee. Finally when the staff member realised that my husband really didn’t like having a bird put on his shoulder, he removed it, and we went on our way.

The redeeming feature of Cave Villa was the art gallery, which is also in a cave. It features statues and dioramas of many Hindu characters, showing scenes from epic tales. This was lit very effectively to make the scenes come to life.

But overall, Cave Villa, which smelt of monkey and bird excrement, was a poorly maintained disappointment. There was a dirty fish spa pool that I would never have dreamed of putting my feet into! The rest of Batu Caves was a fascinating combination of nature, religion and culture, worth a visit if you are in the area.

Outside Cave Villa, back near the base of the Murugan statue, there are several Indian restaurants. We chose the on with the most Indian people eating there, and had a tasty thali plate for MYR8 each.

Worth noting when you are trying to leave Batu Caves by taxi – a driver tried to get us to pay fixed price at double the price of our journey. We went outside the caves complex and within a few minutes hailed a cab that went by the meter.

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South Sulawesi in Pictures 3: Toraja Graves in Cliffs and Caves

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Tana Toraja has much to offer to tourists, and its unique graves in cliffs and caves along with statues of the dead are one of the stranger highlights.                      

Toraja Graves: From Cliffs to Caves


Having watched a Torajan funeral ceremony the previous day, we decided to visit some of the unusual burial grounds in the area, namely cliff and cave resting places. First we visited the village of Lemo which is famous for cliff burials.

Lemo gravesCliffside Graves

Residents of this village and its immediate area, who must belong to one of the local clans, are buried in holes cut out of cliffs. I read that this tradition started because Torajan people are usually buried with their wealth, and that valuable items were sometimes stolen from graves. The graves were moved into the cliffs to deter would-be thieves.

Entering the area we paid the small entrance fee; although this is on the outskirts of a tiny village, it is set up for tourists, with some souvenir stalls. Walking down and across paddy fields, towards to sheer rock face of the cliff, the countryside was stunningly beautiful and serenely peaceful. There were no other tourists when we arrived and we saw all the wooden doors of the grave holes.

Graves in CliffsStatues of the Dead

As well as burying their dead in these cliffs, wooden statues of the dead called tau tau are carved and displayed on balconies hewed out of the cliff. More modern statues are made to resemble the dead person, but it is prohibitively expensive to commission a statue for most people, costing millions of Rupiah where it was traditionally paid for in buffaloes. I found the wooden statues standing staring blankly with their arms outwards quite eerie.

Looking more closely at the grave doors, we could see that some had recent dates written on them, and others were actually open, though we couldn’t see inside. Walking along we came upon a pile of unsmoked cigarettes, which we later found out was an offering, and some bones. The general atmosphere was spooky, with no one else around.

A recently used graveA Living Tradition of the Dead

Having had enough of this unique graveyard, we headed round to the entrance, passing souvenir stalls selling replica wooden statues and crossing paddy fields. We chatted to some of the stall holders and found out that in fact, people of this area are still buried in the cliff today; it is not a dead tradition. More than one person is buried in each hole. In the past the corpses quickly rotted away, providing space for the next one, but nowadays because they are preserved with formaldehyde during the period before burial, they take longer to decompose.

Graves in Caves

Filled with this somewhat gruesome information, we moved on to our next stop on this graveyard tour, the village of Londa, which features graves in caves. Again a small village but nicely set up as a place of interest for visitors, we paid the entrance fee and were offered an oil lamp (with a man to hold it). If you have a torch that is sufficient to see inside the caves, but if not then it is worth hiring an oil lamp to avoid bumping your head on a coffin or knocking a skull off a shelf.

Coffins, skulls and bones fill the caves.The two caves, which are joined by a narrow corridor, are still in use as grave sites. Wooden coffins are shoved in anywhere they’ll fit, along with offerings which can take the form of anything the deceased liked during their lives. We saw food and drinks as well as cigarettes scattered around the coffins as offerings. Bones and skulls line the caves’ natural shelves and little baby coffins are perched up near the ceiling. It feels like something from a horror film but this is an ongoing tradition.

Outside the caves are more coffins, this time suspended on wooden shelves hanging down from above. A row of statues of the deceased completes the eerie scene.

Statues of the dead