Information before you go
The ancient religious complex Goa Gajah is located on the road from Peliatan (Ubud) to Bedulu. If you want to go sight seeing then this is definitely worth a stop.
When we were there we were lucky to see a large group of people busy preparing for a ceremony. Women were sitting together and making all kinds of decorations from flowers and leaves, while the men were in the back cooking a feast meal.
It was delightful and harmonious feeling to see how the Balinese still use this ancient place for many ceremonies. The setting looked like we had just entered an open-air museum and life had been left unchanged for decades...
The scenic temple complex
Goa Gajah means Elephant cave and until now the origins and use of the complex remains uncertain.
In 1923 Dutch archaeologists rediscovered the temple after hearing local people describing a cave with a monstrous elephant head. The head turned out to represent a demon and not an elephant.
Two decades later, in 1954 fountains and a bathing pool were discovered just in front of the cave. It is believed that they are more than 1000 years old.
Today the big bathing pool has been renovated and is very eye-catching. The pool is divided into two sections: one is a bathing area for Balinese women and one for Balinese men. The real size statues are holding jugs from which holy water flows into the pool.
At the bathing pool for Balinese women
Even though elephants have never lived in Bali, it is still used in the name for the cave. Some say the Dutch named it Elephant Cave because the contours around the demons head looks like elephant ears.
Others claim that the cave is named after the elephant statue of Ganesha, which is found in the cave. But until today the origin of the cave and its name remains a mystery...
The Balinese have their own legend describing how the giant Kebo Iwa scratched the Goa Gajah with his long strong fingernails. He was also responsible for the creations of the nearby complex Gunung Kawi and Goa Lawah.
Entrance to the Temple
However, the cave and its surroundings are able to reveal some facts as well that are pretty much certain. The cave was built in the 11th century, well before the Majapahit arrived in Bali.
The statue of Ganesha in the cave shows the presence of Hinduism, while the statues of the goddess Harita just south east of the cave indicates that Buddhism played a role as well.
Other signs show that there is no doubt the cave has a connection with Java island. There are Old Javanese inscriptions and the meditation chambers inside the cave are similar to those found in Java just as the nymphs in the bathing pool.
These statues show signs of Buddhist and Hindu influences and identical statues are also found in other bathing pools in Java.
Statues at the temple
Visitors are able to wander around the historical complex. It's a beautiful place to walk over the bridges and along the rivers
When we were there a Balinese man offered to take us for a small tour through the forest which ended at a nearby village temple.
From here it is possible to reach Yeh Puluh, where similar elephant figures of Ganesha are found which indicates a relationship between the two complexes.
Taking a small tour through the forest
Don’t forget to agree on an appropriate fee with the so-called guide first, just to avoid unpleasant surprises :-)
All in all try to put this ancient site on your list of things to see when traveling through central Bali. The best time to visit is early in the morning when the tourist buses haven't arrived yet.
Combine your visit to the Elephant cave with a visit to the temple complex, mainly known for its tombs. It is just a short drive a away and something not to be missed.Read more
The religion on Bali is a Hindu Darma which involve a mix of the Hindu religion with with animistic spirits, gods, ancestral spirits and Buddhist characteristics.Read more
The complicated calendar of the Balinese is full of important ceremonies and festivals. It almost seems a full time job to be able to participate in all.Read more
Now and then people send us inspiring emails and this generates even more enthusiasm to share all of the things we know about this lovely island in the hope that you can plan your tropical holiday properly and have as such a great time as we always have. Hope to see you there!
When I wrote the mail I never really expected a reply. I might have expected a computer generated but never a personally written one. The information you provided is invaluable, thank you so very much. I have been using your website as a bible through Bali. Through your recommendation, I will be heading to Ubud then follow the sightseeing route to the coast of Candidasa.
WOW...what an awesome website. I could only dream that there would be a website like this for all our travel destinations! You guys have done an fabulous job and now, I am sooo excited about our upcoming trip to Bali. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure Bali was the place for us considering some of the travel warnings (we are Americans). But I can tell from your experiences that the Bali people are so very kind and peaceful.
hi and congratulations on the blog it s brilliant and helpful....we are going to Bali in September with my family (including 2 little girls) so we need to have nice spaceous rooms garden and pool access rooms preferably in Semikyak but not too far from it all...I hope you can recommend a great place thats not full of Australian crowds as we like meeting people from other countries.
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