featured article
Two mystical
holy caves
in Bali

Goa Gajah (elephant cave) and Goa Lawah (bat cave) are two frequently-visited historical sites in Bali that contain many significant meaning for Balinese Hindus.

Situated in Bedulu Village, Gianyar, Goa Gajah is believed to have been carved from a hillside as a monastery in the 11th century, though it wasn't rediscovered until 1923. The name of this cave is probably taken from the nearby Petanu River, which at one time was known as Elephant River, or possibly because the entrance to the cave resembles an elephant. It is used by the Balinese as a holy place for worshipping the God Shiva and his elephant-headed son Ganesha.

Buddha statues and fertility symbols can be found inside the cave, suggesting that it had a long history of religious use. Today, it is a cool, dark place to contemplate Bali's distant past.

The origins of the cave are uncertain. One tale relates that it was created by the fingernail of the legendary giant of Kebo Iwo. It probably dates at least to the 11th century, and it was certainly in existence at the time of the Majapahit takeover of Bali. The cave was rediscovered by Dutch archeologists in 1923, but the fountains and bathing pools were not unearthed until 1954.

Inside the T-shaped cave you can see fragmentary remains of Lingam, the phallic symbol of the Hindu God Shiva, and its female counterpart the Yoni, plus a statue of Shiva's son, the elephant headed God Ganesha. In the counter yard in front of the cave are two square bathing pools with water gushing into them from waterspouts held by six female figures. To the left of the cave entrance, in a small pavilion, is a statue of Hariti, surrounded by children.

Located on southeast coast of Bali in Wates Village, Goa Lawah (bat cave) is on the border between Klungkung and Karangasem regencies. This cave is located in the inner yard of a temple compound.

A distinctly batty stench exudes from the cave and the roofs of the temple shrines in front of the cave are liberally coated with bat droppings. Superficially, the temple is small and unimpressive, but it is very old and of great significance to the Balinese. Goa Lawah Temple is one of the island's nine special Sad Kahyangan Temples, and as such it is the designated holy place to honor the God Maheswara, who resides in this section of the island. Religious processions visit the temple every day, and it is a particular focus for religious rites associated with death.

In front of the cave are small shrines of a Shivaite temple guarding the cave's entrance. This site has been worshipped since around 1000 A.D., and was founded by an itinerant holy man, named Resi Markandya (a holy priest from Java).

The cave is also said to lead all the way to Besakih, but nobody has yet volunteered to confirm this since the bats provide sustenance for the legendary giant snake, Naga Basuki, which is also believed to live in the cave. This ancient reptile is believed to be the caretaker of the earth's equilibrium, a belief which stems from pre-Hindu animism.


home | destinations | interests | indonesia | smart tips | members | art & crafts | featured hotel
featured article | news archives | about us | terms | vendors | advertisers | affiliates | contact us

developed, designed, and maintained by indo.com © All Rights Reserved