I was fortunate with the dates of my trip to Malaysia, managing to be in the awesome culturally mixed country for both Chinese Lunar New Year and Thaipusam. It was the third day into our trip and also the last day of Thaipusam, which made my mom and I even more determined to try and get in on the last day of this Hindu festival.
Thaipusam is a Hindu celebration celebrated in a number of countries including Malaysia. There are four major places that this celebration takes place, and one of them include the Batu Caves. Thaipusam is a celebration that consists of devotees fasting and cleansing themselves 48 hours before the celebration, and then shaving their heads and undertake a pilgrimage along a set route, with the destination being a Hindu temple.
The Batu caves, a lime stone hill comprising of a massive Murugan statue and 272 concrete stairs is the focal point of the Thaipusam festival in Malaysia. During Thipusam over one million devotees and a few curious tourists will visit this religious temple to worship and participate in the religious festival.
We made our way to KL Sentral station, the main station in Kuala Lumpur where you can find the high speed train, slow trains, buses and the metro rail. We decided that we would head to the famous Batu Caves to celebrate Thaipusam with some of the local Malaysians.
Just boarding onto the train we already got the feeling of the Hindu festival. Hundreds of men and women were dressed in their traditional saris, carrying gifts for the gods that included shiny brass pots of milk as well as flowers. The women and children were brightly dressed and a large number of their heads were shaved off and painted yellow.
When we arrived at the Batu caves after a short 30 minute journey we were greeted with thousands of Hindu devotees, hindu music, hot sun and all sorts of interesting stands selling traditional Indian food, artwork and clothes.
It was only mid morning by the time we arrived, but the Batu Caves was already packed. My mom and I decided to conquer the stairs before it became too hot and then wander around the stalls. The stairs were extremely crowded, with even the youngest children and oldest grandma’s trying to reach the top cave. By the time I reached the top of the first section of stairs I was properly wet and uncomfortable. We decided not to hang around on top for too long because of the mass of people trying to perform their religious duties, and instead made our way back down to find some yummy Indian snacks.
On our way out we saw one tiny stall offering mendi tattoos for only 8 ringgits. I couldn’t pass up the bargain so my mom and I had our hands painted before finally heading back to Kuala Lumpur.