Thaipusam is a huge Hindu Festival that occurs across many countries in the world. I was fortunate enough to land myself at the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur during the festival!
Body piercing, dancing, chanting, and offerings (Kavadi) filled the air as this years Thaipusam kicked off. The festival attracted 1.6 million viewers to watch devotees stick skewers through their cheeks, hang coconuts and limes from hooks in their skin, and carry 100kg displays on their shoulders. Many less-extreme devotees carry milk on their heads, while all of them carry their “Kavadi” up to the spectacular Batu Caves on the northern edge of KL.
You can’t help but feel the excitement as the devotees ascend the 272 stairs to the temple within the Batu Caves. It’s an exciting and surreal festival to be apart of! Drums are pounding everywhere, crowds are cheering, devotees pierced and exhausted continuing to push forward! The entire event is a dedication to suffering, perseverance, human exhaustion and devotion.
As an observer you are allowed to climb the steps and walk with the devotees. Devotees climb the central staircase while viewers climb up the left and go down the right staircases. It is very well organized! You will be close enough to touch devotees (hypothetically) and you will see as much as you want to see. Photography and Video taking is everywhere and no one (from what I could tell) seemed offended or insulted at having their picture taken.
What time To Go:
Regardless of when you go, you should expect to be surrounded by tons of people … you can’t avoid this! But … there are better times than others to avoid some of the crowds and maximize your experience. If you want to be apart of the chaos of the “main day of the festival,” then by all means go with the massive horde of other people (morning and night will be your best bet).
If you aren’t worried about going on the main day though, consider going the day before. The crowds are considerably less and devotees will still be walking, still be pierced, and still be carrying large, cool Kavadi. There is comparable excitement with a fraction of the people. (All the pictures in this post were taken the day before the main event).
KL is hot! So, I would suggest going as early as possible to avoid the heat (ticket lines at KL Sentral Station start getting crazy at 9 and 10am). Another great option is to Plan on arriving when the sun sets. The Batu Caves are picturesque when they are all lit up. The crowds and devotees continue the festival long after the sun goes down. On the day before the main event, the devotees seemed to stop walking around 8:30pm to 9:00pm … so get there around 6-7pm the day before the event. You will avoid the crowds, avoid the heat, see devotees, piercings, and dancing, and get to see the Batu Caves in the day and night.
Kuala Lumpur (KL) is easy to navigate and getting around is made simple. Subways, busses, and even taxis are regulated, cheap, and efficient. To get to the Batu Caves go to the KL Sentral station and buy a Kummuter Train ticket to the last stop on the Red Line: Batu caves. Buy a round trip ticket at KL Sentral to avoid waiting in line later on. Tickets are 2 RM per person/1 way.