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Batu Caves: Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
In the steamy rain forests of Malaysia, just a few miles outside of Kuala Lumpur, a single large monolithic mountain juts skyward from the jungle floor. Nestled inside the mountain are the three caves that are called Batu Caves. Nearly 185 feet from the forest floor is the entrance to the largest of the caves, an incredible limestone cave with a vaulted, stalactite encrusted, ceiling nearly 200 feet high. This beautiful cave is known as the Temple Cave.
Teaming with exotic parasitic plants, colorful birds, monkeys, and gigantic bats, Batu Caves is like no other place on earth. In the lower, relatively untouched caves, a fairly diverse range of cave animals can be encountered, including several species found nowhere else in the world!
The Batu Caves were first discovered by Europeans in 1879, but the caves have been in use by indigenous people since prehistoric times.
In the Hindu month of Thai, on the day of the full moon, devout Hindu offer prayer and a sacred palanquin to Lord Murugan (also known as the 'six-faced God'). The festival of Thaipusam represents a sacred pilgrimage of colossal proportions. Over one million people gather at this spot during the 7 day celebration.
On the eve of the festival, the jewel encrusted image of Lord Murugan is taken from the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple at Jalan Bandar in Kuala Lumpur. Transported on a chariot of silver, worshipers follow a procession to Batu Caves where the image is placed in the Temple Cave.
Hindus taking part in the Thaipusam purification ceremony, prepare themselves by fasting, or only eating small amounts of certain foods and maintaining near-trance, discipline and focus.
As evidence, of this discipline and focus, penitents carry kavadis, ornate and heavy frames that are supported by metal spikes and skewers inserted in the bearer's body. Many penitents also drive metal pins, rings, and sharp metal hooks, through ears, tongues, lips, and every other part of the body, in fulfillment of their vows for favors or forgiveness received. Under intense physical discomfort, the penitents struggle in the searing heat and humidity, as they chant their way up the 272 steps to the entry of the Temple Cave.
Snake Temple: Penang Malaysia
Situated at Sungai Kluang on the island of Penang and built in 1850, the temple is dedicated to a Buddhist priest Chor Soo Kong, who was believed to possess miraculous healing powers. Legend has it that this religious man had given refuge to the snakes of the jungle, and when the temple was completed, the snakes mysteriously appeared in and around the temple.
While it was originally named the "Temple of the Azure Cloud" due to the beauty of the Penang sky, to this day, the temple is a sanctuary for venomous pit-vipers. The snakes are said to be the 'servants' of the departed Buddhist priest.
Numerous poisonous and non-poisonous snakes, can be seen slithering across the floors, and alters of the Temple. They coil harmlessly around the statuary, pillars, and beams, they are even tangled within the potted plants. The snakes are believed to be rendered docile and harmless by the smoke of continuously burning incense and joss-sticks. While there are many snakes living in the temple, and visitors are permitted (and even encouraged) to handle them, they have not been known to harm any of the numerous visitors to the temple. If you are ever in Penang, and feeling adventurous, you will be happy to know that admission to the "Temple of the Azure Cloud" is free.
Chichen Itza: Yucatan Peninsula
Chichen Itza was founded in the dawn of the 6th century by the Itzan. Across the span of several centuries, the city was vanquished, enslaved, abandoned and re-settled many times, and then for unknown reasons, was abandoned forever in the early 15th century. By the time the Spanish conquistadors and clerics began exploration of this new world, the Maya city of Chichen Itza was already a jungle-shrouded ruin. The Europeans paid little attention to the ruins, and the existence of this once great Maya city faded from memory. The lost world of the Maya remained a secret of the Meso-American jungles until rediscovered by explorers, John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood in 1839. While still shrouded in mystery, Chichen Itza is believed to have been a center of culture, trade, and ceremonial worship.
In the early age of Maya culture, worship included human sacrifice. Within the ruined city there is an enormous natural well called the "Cenote de Sacraticios." The Cenote is truly a "well of souls" for it is the place of Maya sacrifice. Only the most worthy Maya were chosen to cast themselves into the silent waters below, weighted with heavy stones, so they may bring the graces of the gods to the city. (Many beautiful objects of jade, silver, gold, and copper have been found in the well.) Later, under the influence of the conquering warrior Toltecs, the nature of the sacrificial ceremony took on a different dimension, one of brutal executions. Within this new "cult of the skull," homage and sacrifice grew to include a 'blood sport," not only to appease the gods of life and death, but also for the amusement of the ruling class.
One of the most impressive structures within Chichen Itza, is the pyramid of Kukulcan. It is of Toltec influence, with two gigantic feathered serpents framing the main stair case into the sky. Kukulcan is a Maya deity represented as a feathered serpent. The pyramid is also know as the "The Castillo."
The builders of this ancient structure engineered it in such a way that mysterious acoustical phenomenon occurs. A chief standing at the top of the structure with a crowed court yard of subjects below had only to speak in a normal voice and his voice was magnified many times over. In descending the pyramid, the steps gave off a thunderous resonance with each foot-fall. The acoustics served to make the priests and ruling class seem powerful and god-like. This phenomenon, and the prospect of being the next chosen for the sacrificial alter, commanded the allegiance of the people.
These strange acoustical properties are most prominent in the Ball Court, one of the more interesting structures of Chichen Itza. A warrior captain of a Maya team could stand in center court and clap his hands together only once, and have it answered by seven sharp and distinct echoes. The number seven had great spiritual significance to the Maya. Also, at each end of the Ball Court, separated by a distance of nearly 180 feet, are viewing structures. The ruling class, sitting in one structure, could speak in normal tones of voice and be heard clearly by their dignitary guests at the opposite end of the court, even above the cheering crowd. (Scientists are still a bit puzzled by the numerous acoustical phenomenon that occur within Chichen Itza, but theorize it is a combination of the architecture and a property within the stone the Maya used for building.)
Birthplace of modern sports:
The Maya "blood sport," played on the Ball Court at Chichen Itza was the forerunner of several modern sports, including soccer, basketball, lacrosse and jai-alai. The Maya, however played with a very different purpose in mind other than winning. The Maya contests were played for the good harvest, and the blessings of the heavens and stars. They played to be proved worthy enough to be sacrificed to the gods.
The object of the Maya Ball Game was to drive a small cork ball wrapped in rubber, through the stone ring high on each side wall of the Ball Court. While this may not seem to be so difficult, the players could not use their hands. They could use their hips, head, feet, knees, elbows, virtually any part of their body, except the hands. There were seven players on each team. Because of the extreme difficulty the game ended when a team scored. The games could go on for days and weeks, rain or shine, into the night and into the dawn, until it was over. Competition was fierce, losing was a disgrace, where winning meant honorable death. At the end of a competition, the victorious team captain walked to center court as did the losing captain. The victor clapped once, answered by the seven echoes, and as he knelt before the losing captain, he was beheaded by his opponent with one swift blow from a large broad bladed scythe.
The death of the warrior captain ensured the village good and bountiful harvest, and placated the rain god. It also immortalized the warrior. In the photograph of the carved stone wall, you can see the victorious warrior on one knee, with seven snakes gushing from his decapitated body. The snakes represent good, and are the messengers to the gods.
Last edited by MaTTsWoRld, Oct/3/2007, 6:42 am
you smile because iam different,i laugh because your all the same