Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Batu Caves

My first exposure to the fantastical world of Hindu art was at the Batu Caves, just north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  I had been living in Saudi Arabia for a couple of years, surrounded by abstract art--beautiful, but devoid of any representation of the human form.  To travel from such an austere environment to one exploding with voluptuous deities was to experience genuine culture shock for the very first time.  That this little pocket of Hinduism was to be found inside an Islamic country, made it that much more astonishing.

We climbed all 272 steps to the main temple cave.  It is a vast limestone chamber with high ceilings, ornate shrines and playful monkeys.  A hundred years ago there used to be bats living here.  Chinese settlers in Malaysia excavated the guano for fertilizer.  An Indian trader converted the cave into a place of worship and  it is now the most popular Hindu shrine outside of India.

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