Goa Gajah Temple

Goa Gajah Temple

Goa Gajah’s name is slightly misleading, lending the impression that it’s a gigantic dwelling full of elephants. Nevertheless, Goa Gajah ‘Elephant Cave’ is an archaeological site of significant historical value that makes it a special place to visit. Located on the cool western edge of Bedulu Village, six kilometres out of central Ubud, you do not need more than an hour to descend to its relic-filled courtyard and view the rock-wall carvings, a central meditational cave, bathing pools and fountains.

Goa Gajah dates back to the 11th century, built as a spiritual place for meditation. The main grounds are down a flight of steps from the roadside and parking area, which is lined with various art and souvenir shops and refreshment kiosks. Upon reaching the base you will come across a large ‘wantilan’ meeting hall and an assortment of large old stone carvings, some restored to their former full glory.

The pool, excavated in 1954, features five out of supposedly seven statues depicting Hindu angels holding vases that act as waterspouts. Various structures reveal Hindu influences dating back to the 10th century, and some relics feature elements of Buddhism dating even earlier to the 8th century. The cave is shallow; inside are three stone idols each wrapped in red, yellow and black cloths. Black soot lines the cave’s walls as result from the current-day incense burning. Several indentations show where meditating priests once sat.

The northern side of the complex is dominantly Buddhist while south across the river it’s mostly Shivaite. At the southern end are beautiful rice fields and small streams that lead to the Petanu River – another natural site entwined in local legends. Goa Gajah was built on a hillside and as two small streams met here forming a campuhan or ‘river junction’, the site was considered sacred and was built for hermetic meditation and prayers.

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Bali, Temple, Other

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