Holy Bat Cave!

Since my first trip to Malaysia in 2011, I’ve had mentioned to me a number of times the Batu Caves.  Located about 13 km north of Kuala Lumpur, these caves serve as a significant Hindu temple site for their god Murugan.  Standing 140 ft tall, it is the largest statue of Murugan in the world.  Also at the caves are statues of other figures of significance to the Tamil Hindus.

It cost me about one dollar for the round trip train ticket from Kuala Lumpur, and a little wear and tear on my flip flops.

When you first arrive at the caves, you’re greeted by this big statue of Hanuman,  a guardian figure in the epic Hindu story, Ramayana.  A short summary of the story of Hanuman goes something like this:  Hanuman, a shape-shifting monkey looking guy happens upon deity-king Rama who is in exile searching for his wife Sita who was kidnapped by some bad 9 (sometimes 10) headed dude named Ravana.  Hanuman decides to help Rama find his wife.  He finds her and reports his finding to Rama who then opens a can on Ravana for his treachery.  Eventually, through war, Hanuman and Rama defeat Ravana’s men and finally Rama dukes it out with Ravana.  Rama cuts off the center head of Ravana but it grows back.  Rama keeps cutting it off but it keeps growing back. Then Rama is told that the nectar of immortality is in the belly of Ravana.  Naturally, Rama then shoots Ravana in the stomach to handle that business with the nectar.  After that, Rama is able to kill Ravana.  That took me three days of reading to figure all that out.  Hindu stories are extremely complicated and there are many names for the same thing which further confuse the uninformed such as myself.

So here is Hanuman

Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8
Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8

In this next up-close shot, you can see that Hanuman has torn open his chest to expose two people inside it.  Here’s why:  After the war against Ravana, Rama wishes to honor those who helped him.  Sita, Rama’s wife, gives Hanuman a necklace with precious stones.  He proceeds to dissect the necklace stating that unless Rama and Sita are found within the stones it is of no value to him.  Some people made fun of him, thinking he was being a little dramatic over his love for Rama and Sita, so Hanuman ripped open his own chest to show that Rama and Sita were actually IN his heart.  Have I lost you yet?  Clear as mud?

See look!  It’s Rama and Sita in there.

DSC01757-edit-small
Sony A7R w/ MD Rokkor 135mm f/3.5

After this big statue, there was a temple dedicated to the stories in Ramayana and a small cave full of statue displays showing significant scenes from the story.  When I went to Batu Caves, I had done no reading beforehand so none of it made any sense to me.

Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8
Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8

A shot from inside the first cave system before getting to the main caves.

DSC01746-edit-small
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5

I think these are Rama’s two wives – just a guess.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5

Yep.. not a clue but it looked neat.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135mm f/3.5

And here we have the typical touristy shot of the giant Murugan Statue with the 272 stairs leading up to the main cave.  Climbing the stairs does put a little wobble in the legs and having to run the gauntlet of monkeys makes it even more exciting.

Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8
Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8

I thought this was neat looking.  It was painted on the ceiling of the gateway at the base of the stairs.  Neat color and patterns.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5

Defender of the stairs, he keeps a watchful eye out for any tourists getting out of line.  Should correction be required, he will take away their selfie stick and pummel them with it the appropriate number of times to restore order.  Not really… he’s just looking for a sucker that might throw a little food his way.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5

One of the temple staff.  I wonder how many times he’s climbed those stairs?

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5

And finally reached the top.  Beyond the gateway, you can see on the right the massive cave opening.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5

Standing at the top of the stairs, looking straight up.

Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8
Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8

Just inside the entrance of the cave, looking straight up.

Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8
Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8

A side shrine for, who I believe is, Karuppasamy.  The guys here are performing a ceremony, ringing bells, lighting candles, and washing the idol with what appeared to be 2% milk.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5

About every half-hour, a ceremony was performed at each of the temples.  Here, this guy smears a thick orange paste onto the spear and then washes it off with water.  The spear is meant to represent the spear of Murugan.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5

This spear here:

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135mm f/3.5

During the washing of the spear, two musicians performed the appropriate raga (melody) and tala (rhythm) to create a good rasa (mood).  The sound, echoing inside the massive cave, was quite the aural experience.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5

I’m not a fan of the smell of burning incense.  Couple that with the ceremonial cacophony and visual stimulation, it was time to move along to the next part of the cave.

Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8
Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8

I spent most of my time at the caves in this next section.

Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8
Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8

The big opening at the top made for some really special lighting and atmosphere.  Daylight mixed with the electric lights created splendid color and shapes.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5

One of the oil lamps being used at the temple in this part of the cave.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 135mm f/3.5

I really enjoyed my visit to the Batu Caves.  Though I’m not at all into the religious ceremony, I still feel privileged to have witnessed it in such a unique environment.  I had pleasant conversations while I was there and I bagged a few decent shots.  All in all, a good day.

Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8
Sony A7R w/ Minolta Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8

As you may have deduced from my captions, I used 3 lenses on this trip:  The Minolta Rokkor -X 24mm f/2.8, the MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5 (3rd gen w/ macro), and the MD Minolta 135mm f/3.5.  Though I used the 35-70mm the most, each of these old manual focus lenses performed brilliantly.  The 36 Megapixel full-frame sensor of the A7R is unreserved in pointing out flaws in a lens.  I’m finding the 35-70mm to be a complete knock-it-out-of-the-park lens!   Its stellar reputation is well deserved.  If you can find one, get one while they’re still around to be had.

Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5
Sony A7R w/ MD Minolta 35-70mm f/3.5

I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos!  Northeast Malaysia coming up next week.

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Holy Bat Cave!

  1. Wow… who could NOT like these pic’s! Another amazing adventure for you!! Thanks- as always- for sharing. Excellent narrative, too! I can understand the studying it took.

    Like

  2. These shots are just incredible! What an amazing opportunity your job gives you to experience such awesome things! Then, you get to share it with so many others!! Of course, your own kiddos are some of your biggest fans and “followers”– reading your new blog posts, and soaking up all your new pictures! 🙂 Thank you for sharing all of these with us!

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