Batu Caves rainbow staircase leads to trouble

The viral sensation around the multi-hued staircase at iconic Batu Caves may have put the temple committee in hot water, as the multimillion ringgit painting and renovation works were not sanctioned by the National Heritage Department (JWN), reports The Star.

The Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple, which is the temple that the rainbow staircase leads to, is listed as a National Heritage site, and any development must go through an application process with the National Heritage Registry department. 

The daily reports that in 2015, Batu Caves Sri Mahamariamman Temple Devasthanam committee chairman Tan Sri R. Nadarajah said three lots, encompassing 6.6ha in Batu Caves – Lot 1197, Lot 4557 and Lot 6020 were designated a heritage site in 2012.

The entire compound where the Thaipusam festival was conducted, including a few other sites were gazetted as well.

The Star reports that activist and Sentosa assemblyman G. Gunaraj said that JWN conservators were displeased as Section 40 of the National Heritage Act 2005 required the temple to seek approval prior to any renovation.

“I was told that in accordance with the Act’s Section 40 requirements, the temple management must refer to the department to identify best conservation methods when there is any development or renovation work done in close proximity to a national heritage site.

“This is to ensure the integrity and legacy of the heritage structure is maintained,’’ Gunaraj said.

The painted staircase may lead to unwanted consequences for the temple.

“They (JWN) are disappointed that efforts to get the temple listed as a heritage site might have been in vain as the paint job could lead to the temple being delisted,’’ he said.

International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos) Malaysia committee member Rosli Mohd Ali said: “It has been going (renovations at Batu Caves) for a long time now, but whatever they do, they must get consent from JWN.

“The temple committee cannot expect the temple to be on the heritage list and yet do whatever they like.”

However, Nadarajah was quoted by The Star as saying: “The paint job does not require any approval. For the renovation, we had approval from Selayang Municipal Council (MPS).

“Since we are not constructing any new building, we did not need to seek approval from JWN.”

But according to MPS corporate affairs deputy director Ahmad Fauzi Ishak, there was no record of any approval given for any works in Batu Caves.

“In fact, we are still waiting for the documents and corresponding technical reports required to legalise the structures and buildings in and around Batu Caves, which has been going on for the last five years,” he said.

Renovation works began early last year, said Nadarajah.

“In preparation for the consecration ceremony on Aug 31, all 13 temples in Batu Caves underwent renovations, and this included new entrance towers, new tiles, paint and sculptures, among others.

“Experienced temple builders from India were commissioned for much of the renovation works. The temple now looks a lot like those in India, or even better.

“We have spent RM6.1mil so far but the actual cost will be revealed on the consecration day,” he said, adding that the sum was from donations.

The idea had been mooted by Nadarajah’s son, Datuk N. Sivakumar, also on the committee, and added that the colour scheme would attract more tourists, while the renovations would add to the comfort of devotees.

MPS is currently in the process of legalising many of the structures in Batu Caves, which were previously built without going through standard approval processes.

The 272 steps lead up to the temple. The cave temple, is one of 30 caves open to the public, and has a 100m vaulted ceiling with an area that is open to the sky.

The daily previously reported that Batu Caves was unable to qualify for the Unesco World Heritage List as its buildings were not in harmony with its surroundings.

JWN is looking into the matter at present to determine a suitable course of action.

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