Make cave monastery a heritage site, authorities told

Perak Published 4 months ago on 14 July 2021 | Author TIN Media
PERAK:

According to Badan Warisan Malaysia (BWM), there is a great need to conserve and protect the cave monastery at Gunung Kanthan in Perak because of its historical significance.

The Dhamma Sakyamuni Caves Monastery and a temple on the same premises near Chemor, according to BWM general manager Vanessa Loong, should be kept intact and secure for human habitation so that future generations can appreciate them.

“They are of national significance.

“We are deeply concerned and appeal to the relevant authorities, especially the Land and Mines Department, to intervene and protect the monastery and temple.”

She said that the non-governmental organisation was advocating for the preservation of cultural, natural, and architectural heritage.

Gunung Kanthan was also known for its unique flora and fauna, which she said should be protected.

“This issue is one of national significance as the heritage value and interest go far beyond the state of Perak; the temples, caves and limestone hills belong to all Malaysians.

“They must be saved and protected as a whole, for posterity, ” Loong added.

However according reports, the century-old Buddhist temple and monastery, which is located on a 2.02ha piece of land, may be forced to relocate due to quarrying activities.

Monastery abbot Chiong Sai Tin had hoped that the hill and monastery would be classified as heritage and religious sites by the state.

Gunung Kanthan is one of the geological heritage geoparks comprised of limestone hills in the Kinta Valley National Geopark, according to Loong.

She believes the priceless geological, biological, cultural, tourism, and recreational value of the limestone outcrop is on the verge of being irreversibly lost.

“Together with other limestone outcrops, it forms the distinctive karst landscape surrounding Ipoh, ” she highlighted.

She noted that cave dwellings were natural spaces where humans had lived in since time immemorial.

“In the case of Perak, human inhabitants have lived in the caves of its ancient limestone hills as evidenced by the discovery of the intact skeletal remains of the Perak Man in 1990, found amidst burial artefacts which date back to about 11, 000 years ago in the Lenggong Valley.

“The present Buddhist and Hindu temples as well as monasteries constructed within the nearby Gunung Kanthan echo those ancient ones found in India and China, and these buildings are attached to the natural caverns in the limestone hills and outcrops of Perak, ” said Loong.

“The natural beauty of these karst formations has led to favourable comparisons to the famous karst landscape of the hills in Guilin, China, with their unique rounded silhouettes in the natural landscape.

“The Buddhist and Hindu cave temples in Ipoh together with the dramatic karst landscape are famous tourist attractions for local and international visitors.

“They are priceless heritage worthy of preservation, ” she reiterated.