Goa Gajah is a significant Hindu archaeological site located in Bedulu, just 10 minutes outside of Ubud in Bali. Goa Gajah is locally known as the Elephant Cave because of its close proximity to the Elephant River. A mysterious cave, relics, and ancient bathing pools set amid green rice paddies and a beautiful garden. The menacing entrance to Goa Gajah looks like a demonic mouth, suggesting that people are entering an underworld as they venture inside through the darkness. Some claim that the entrance represents the Hindu earth god Bhoma while others say the mouth belongs to the child-eating witch Rangda from Balinese mythology. Goa Gajah was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

Goa Gajah is thought to date back to at least the 11th century, was escavated in 1922. The first mention of Goa Gajah and the Elephant Cave was in the Javanese lontar (palm-leaf manuscript) Negarakertagama written in 1365 to a Balinese place called Lwa Gajah (elephant water, or river), which was a dwelling place of Buddhist priest. Elephant Water may refer to the Petanu river, near the cave. Literal piles of relics with unknown origins have been laid out in a surrounding garden. The leading theory suggests that Goa Gajah was used as a hermitage or sanctuary by Hindu priests who dug the cave entirely by hand. Although accredited as a sacred Hindu site, a number of relics and the close proximity of a Buddhist temple suggest that the site held special significance to early Buddhists in Bali.

For such a busy tourist attraction, the Elephant Cave itself is actually quite small. As you enter through the dark, narrow passage, the cave abruptly ends in an intersection. The left passage contains a small niche with a statue of Ganesh, the Hindu deity reminiscent of an elephant. The right passage holds a small worship area with several stone lingam and yoni in honor of Shiva.

Other than the religious and archaeological significance, the real draw of Goa Gajah is the beautiful surrounding. The Elephant Cave only takes minutes to explore, however rice paddies, gardens, and stone steps lead to other beautiful settings. Smart visitors climb the long flight of stairs down into the shady valley where a small waterfall awaits. The remains of a crumbled Buddhist temple rest nearby; ancient stones with carved reliefs lie strewn with boulders in the river as rushing water erases history.

Notes

  1. Goa Gajah is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  2. The entrance fee is Rp. 15.000,-
  3. Proper dress is required; knees must be covered by both men and women. Sarongs are available on loan at the entrance of the site.
  4. Goa Gajah is still an active worship site – try not to get in the way of worshippers inside the narrow cave. Do not photograph people during their prostrations.
  5. Be prepared to be plunged into near darkness as you enter the cave; there is no artificial lighting.

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One Comment on “Goa Gajah

  1. Pingback: Ubud Eat Pray Love Tour Package | Adventurous Bali

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