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This 400 million-year-old cave site and temple in Malaysia is planning an escalator upgrade

The custodians of an ancient Hindu religious site in Malaysia are planning to install an escalator as an alternative for those visitors either unable or unwilling to climb the 272 steps leading to its temple and cave shrines.

The Batu Caves are one of Malaysia’s most popular tourist attractions. They serve as a religious site for Hindu worshippers and are the focal point of the annual Thaipusam festival every year.

Located a few miles north of the capital Kuala Lumpur, the site is thought to be around 400 million years old and is easily recognizable by its towering flight of rainbow stairs, which have made it popular with Instagrammers.

To reach the temple housed in a limestone cave at the top, visitors must currently climb 272 steps.

Adding an escalator would make the site “more accessible,” a spokesperson for the site’s management committee told a press conference Friday.

“We hope the government will assist us since this (escalator) will allow the disabled and elderly who are unable to climb the steps to reach the main temple,” said temple committee chairman R. Nadarajah.

Construction of the escalator, as well as a new “multipurpose hall” will begin after this year’s Thaipusam festival which falls on January 25, Nadarajah added.

The hall is estimated to cost around 35 million Malaysian ($7.5 million), Nadarajah said. He did not say how much the escalator would cost.

Visitors on the stairs leading up to Batu Caves' Sri Subramaniar Swamy temple. - Mohd Samsul Mohd Said/Getty Images
Visitors on the stairs leading up to Batu Caves' Sri Subramaniar Swamy temple. - Mohd Samsul Mohd Said/Getty Images

Tourists visiting Malaysia flock to the Batu Caves to see their famous rainbow stairs, which were painted as part of an effort by the temple’s organizing committee to attract more people to the site.

Batu Cave officials say the strategy has worked, pointing out the colorful stairs have become popular with Instagrammers.

However, the rejuvenation has also courted controversy with the Malaysian heritage board, which says the steps were painted before the makeover was approved.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mislabeled and miscalculated Malaysia’s currency. This has been corrected.

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