Saturday, August 27, 2011

Malaysia: Kingdoms Within A Kingdom









Malysia: Kingdoms within kingdoms


 Part I.
Before discussing the awesome Lord Murugan statue at the Batu caves I wanted to briefly mention the idea of "sacred sites".  There are many websites that discuss this topic but my reason for mentioning it is that I have many international friends from all over the world who already live close to these sites and to me are very fortunate.  Most sites are not designated as "sacred" but they still are.  One such example is Kaieteur waterfall or the Angel Falls in neighboring Venezuela.  They are not noted as a sacred site but the history around them does make them sacred and one would wonder what unknown spiritual powers these locations hold but not discovered.  Just because a site doesn't have elaborate temples doesn't mean there isn't great power locked within its earth or natural surroundings.  Think of the Himalayas or Tibet and Lhasa.

I imagine across our planet there are many locations that harbor mysterious powers, whether in the soil, the rocks or maybe a certain parallel dimension where the gateway is most receptive or open at that location allowing prayers or rituals to have more power than other locations.   Most of these mysterious locations are unknown.  The ones that are discovered are turned into the most fabulous shrines, temples, mosques and even sacrificial temples like Kukulkan's Pyramid on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. Some of these locations are obvious such as the magnificent Batu Caves of Malaysia which I visited in May and the focus of this travel essay.   One such location that I believe would normally go unnoticed to many if it were not for the stones is Stone Henge or even the stone monuments of Easter Island.  Why did they go through the effort and why did they pick that location above all?  True, the Druids of that time are not around today and all we can do do is just wonder.  Why were the Jain and Hindu temples of Kajuraho chosen to be there and not other locations? The ultimate question is what makes a site sacred for a Shaman, Priest, Imam or religious group?  Could it be a special individual did something at that site or even stepped foot there? Could it be the Yucatan peninsula where amazing Mayan temples were built and thousands were sacrificed was special because not too far away the legendary meteor that hit earth 65 million years ago is on that very location leaving a crater lending some type of otherworldly power to that location?  Or maybe so many dinosaurs and animals died in one location lending that spot a certain power or blessing which is unknown to. Or maybe a sacred site could be due to magnetic fields or things deep within the tectonic plates of the earth again unknown to us but instantly felt by the spiritually attuned. Since our own human existence, why and what we are doing here and where we come from is a mystery to many, including myself and why our planet and life on it as we know it is a bigger mystery; what lends power to a site being sacred is still in that nebulous world of the unknown.

But when approaching the Batu Caves and seeing the awesome Lord Murugan statue you know you have reached a sacred site that has been discovered by one and many before.     While there are numerous caves and probably fabulous undiscovered ones I want to talk about the most famous one which is the focal point for the Malaysian Hindus during the Thaipusam festival.   Lord Murugan, son of Siva and Parvatie is certainly the star of the show here.  The effect is so surreal that you feel as if Lord Murugan stepped out of the molten lava core of the earth still dripping in metallic gold or maybe stepped down from the Sun!  But with all his brilliance it was actually walking up the 272 concrete steps where I felt the same feeling as I have when walking through labyrinths in some old cathedrals; purification of the mind.  Walking up the 272 concrete steps had the same cleansing effect on the mind as when you walk around in labyrinths. The doorways or gateways you walk through are invisible to the eye but they are there.  The design is different and one is more strenuous and linear than the other but for me I felt the same feeling on my psyche as I reached the top; a cleansing. 

The Batu Caves like the title of the first part of this essay; Kingdoms within kingdoms offers you what great poetry offers; an epiphany within another epiphany, an "aha moment within another one".   After climbing the steps and being greeted by armies of macaque monkeys and fruit bats darting in and out of their prehistoric stalactites you enter the mouth of the main area called the "cathedral cave".  The feeling of seeing Lord Murugan towering in front of the prehistoric cave opening was not only surreal but what put you in awe was the mere thought that a group would devote so much time and effort on this, that alone makes it a true "wonder".  Another set of steps leads you down inside the womb of this chamber and here are Hindu deities are situated all over the temple.  The entire feeling I received after seeing the Lord Murugan statue, the temples inside and the sheer height of the entrance to the cave was just awesome.  You couldn't find a better example of mankind venturing back into the womb and reconnecting with "the mother". 

One may think that elation couldn't be trumped but it was when I entered the last part of the cave chambers I found completion in this art form that combined nature and man-kind, earth energy and prayer or devotional energy; an area where an opening to the sky allowing a beam of light to enter into the dark cavernous area.  Here there was another temple but I was focused on the shaft of light that came beaming down in the center of this cave.  I was hypnotized by its presence.  Here we find the primordial connection of the "father and the mother" or "sky and earth"  united and its no wonder that the Batu caves is considered not only a sacred site but a true work of art