Pura Goa Lawah, the Bat Cave temple, is located where the regencies of Klungkung and Karangasem meet. You will definitely pass this temple if you go to Candidasa. It is a spacious temple compound on the left side of the road if you are going north and right opposite it is a black sand beach with pristine water from where you can see Nusa Penida island on the horizon. The temple is one of the island’s nine special Sad Khayangan temples. Rsi Markandya, a priest from Java, found this holy place. This sacred place is designated to honor Dewa Maheswara, the god who rules in the southeast.
Right after the main entrance are two huge sacred banyan trees in a spacious well maintained garden. Going into the middle court, there are three bale standing in the three corners of the compound. The bale or raised open-air platforms with a roof are usually used for preparing offerings or a place for the Gamelan group to play their instruments. At this point you can start smelling the intense smell of guano and burning incense sticks.
Inside the innermost compound, you won’t see a huge mounted temple but an old shrine and of course the dark bat cave. Inside the innermost compound there is a Shiva shrine in the entrance of this temple that has been worshiped since around 1000 AD. There is also a bale decorated with the painting of Naga Basuki, the legendary giant snake believed to maintain the earth’s equilibrium. It is said that a prince of Mengwi once hid in the cave for protection and followed the cave’s tunnel system which emerged at Besakih temple located on the slopes of Gunung Agung. However, due to the number of bats in the cave which sometimes cover the cave’s mouth and because of the snake story no attempt to follow the tunnel has taken place since.
You’ll be amazed to see how everyone can concentrate to pray amidst the squeaking sound of the thousands of bats in the cave. But I have prayed there and I was not disturbed at all by the noise. In fact the sound creates such a mystical and natural atmosphere; it is just like meditating in a forest.
Religious activities take place every day in this temple. People who live around the temple bring offerings to the temple every morning, afternoon and evening. Hence the temple is well taken care of. More pilgrims come when it is a full moon day. Another religious rite that usually takes place in this temple is a ritual associated with death. And also before a big holy day such as Nyepi, the Hindus from the surrounding villages around perform the melasti ritual. Melasti is a ceremony when devotees walk from the temple to the sea in a procession carrying the effigies of deities to be purified in the sea.
Visit this temple in the morning when the villagers come for the morning prayers. However, it is fine to visit on a sunny afternoon too, as even though it is located next to the beach, the temple has many big trees so the shade gives nice protection.