• Goa Gajah

    This ancient religious complex can be found nearby Ubud. It is located within a beautiful
    setting of palm trees and rice fields.

  • Bathing pools

    The large bathing pool is the first thing you will notice when you approach this complex.
    It is considered more then 1000 years old.

  • Temple ceremony

    When you visit a temple complex in Bali, there is a chance you might witness the
    preparation of an important temple ceremony. Or better yet, the temple ceremony itself.

  • Nearby rice fields

    Everywhere in Bali you will find patches of rice fields. If you walk a little bit further
    away from the temple complex, you will find yourself in the middle of the fields.

The mysteries of Goa Gajah...


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...

 

goa gajah temple from above
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.

 

nymphs at the goa gajah pools in bali
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 goa gajah temple on bali
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 goa gajah temple in bali
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.

 

tour around goa gajah
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.


Home > Central Bali Sights > Goa Gajah

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