Batu Caves Hindu Temple: Temple Inside an Ancient Cave

Located in Gombak, Malaysia, Batu Caves Hindu Temple is one of the most interesting Hindu temples in the world. It is not the biggest or tallest, but it is inside an ancient cave, making it highly unique. Batu Caves Hindu Temple is an icon of Malaysia and one of the four most important and holy Hindu shrines in the country.

batu caves hindu temple statue

The caves get their names from the Batu River nearby. The river is just outside the capital and stretches for 12 kilometers. While we do not know for how long the river has been there, we know for how long the caves have been there. According to studies, the limestone that forms the caves must be around 400 million years old.

batu caves hindu temple inside

The formation of the caves dates back to prehistoric times. What is more interesting is that until the 19th century, the caves remained untouched by humanity. Earliest records indicate that the caves were used as shelter by the Temuan people who populated Malaysia 75,000 years ago.

the back of the statue

The existence of the cave was a secret for thousands of years to outsiders. However, in the late 19th century, American naturalist William Hornaday came across the caves and recorded them. The popularity of the caves in the following decades is usually attributed to Hornaday and his discovery.

batu caves hindu temple inside shrine

In the aftermath of Hornaday’s discovery, an Indian trader promoted the caves as a place of praying and worship. He thought that the entrance of the caves looked like the divine spear of Murugan, the deity of war in Hinduism. A few years later, the trader also installed some religious icons and statues inside the caves, officially opening the temple.

the interior steps of the caves
Los Finkos

There are two caves in the lower levels and one main cave situated higher than the other two. In the ground caves, there are statues, paintings, and murals depicting various events in Hinduism. Most of the shrines in these caves are representations of Murugan’s victory over the demon Sooran.

the entrance of the batu caves hindu temple
Andrea Di Matteo

In order to get to the main Batu Caves Hindu Temple, visitors have to take a walk upstairs, 272 steps to be exact. At the beginning of the caves, a 42-meter-tall statue of Murugan greets the visitors. This statue was built in 2006 and is the third-most-tallest Murugan statue in the world.

the interior shrine
Vicky Watton

Batu Caves Hindu Temple is also the center point for the Thaipusam festival. In this festival, pilgrims from all over the world meet in the Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur, the capital. After the meeting, the pilgrims start their journey to the cave temple which takes around 8 hours. The devotees carry offerings and sacrificial items during their journey.

the caves interior

In addition to its importance for the Hindus, the caves are also a tourist attraction for rock climbers. For at least a decade now, the caves have provided more than 100 climbing routes that are 150 meters high to climbing enthusiasts.

the caves and the sky through the cave hole