Whenever most people talk about the Batu Caves, it is almost always in reference to its famous Hindu temple, the 272 steps one would have to climb to access the main entrance to the cave and the giant statue of Lord Murugan located at the foot of the hill.
But Batu Caves is definitely more than all of that. It is also a natural wonder, a limestone karst tower with over 20 caves found inside.
If you want to know more about the Batu Caves – which are located in the Gombak district of Selangor – you can still visit the place, but unfortunately we cannot do so at this time. So the next best thing comes in the form of a book published by the Malaysian Cave and Karst Conservancy or MCKC.
Batu Caves: the majestic limestone icon in Malaysia was published last year (first edition in March, second in July) and is essentially a guide to the limestone hill for locals and foreigners. It presents many interesting facts about the Batu Caves, some of which are known and some not.
For example, did you know that there are 21 species of bats that have been registered (until 2019) to live in the different caves on the hill? Some species are also extremely rare, such as Leschenault’s fruit bat (Rousettus leschanaulti).
Naturally, there are also many other bugs and bugs living in the caves, as well as a snake called the cave runner (Elaphe taeniura). The cave runner is a non-poisonous snake that survives exclusively on bats. “An excellent wall climber, he hangs from cave ceilings to tear off bats in flight,” is the description found in the book.
Along with a great introduction to the Batu Caves (which includes its many layers of history, the people involved in its early explorations, archaeological finds, and scientific data on the hill and its caves), the book also highlights the flora and the surrounding wildlife. .
Of course, there is also a chapter dedicated to the temples, and you can read the story behind each one. The temples are: Sri Subramaniam Swamy temple, Vali Davayanai temple, Ganesh temple, Ayyappaswamy temple and Jada Jothy Khotai Muniswarar temple.
According to the book, a number of these temples are built in an “art gallery” style. When you visit the place someday, head to the Cave Villa complex to visit the Small Dark Cave, which features exhibits depicting scenes from the Mahabharata and other Hindu scriptures.
There is also the Lower Cave of Ganesh, known as the Cave of the Ramayana, which contains elaborate dioramas from the Ramayana.
Perhaps the most important is the sixth and final chapter of the book – Conservation and Management. In this chapter, learn what it takes to keep the hill and its surroundings safe from harm, as well as the sustainable conservation efforts of activist groups, researchers, organizations and businesses.
As the Batu Caves are one of the main tourist destinations in the country, they also talk about what needs to be done to balance tourism and infrastructure development, with conservation efforts.
Best of all, some of the images in the book are just stunning, as they show you a side of the Batu Caves rarely seen in commercial publications.
The book was the result of the collaboration of a group of publishers, writers, photographers and researchers, namely Ruth Kiew, Zubaid Akbar Mukhtar Ahmad, Ros Fatihah Muhammad, Surin Suksuwan, Nur Atiqah Abd Rahman, Lim Teck Wyn and Dylan Jefri Ong. The MCKC was established in 2015 to advance cave and karst research, management and conservation in Malaysia.
To learn more about the book and where to buy it, contact the group through their Facebook page (Malaysian Cave and Karst Conservancy), Instagram (@malaysiancavekarst) or their website (mckc.org.my).