Jul 9, 2012

Discover Goa Gajah’s Mysterious Origins

Goa Gajah Photo

via: patrikmloeff

A tour of Goa Gajah is a historical journey into the heart of ancient Balinese society. Goa Gajah, or Elephant Cave, is an 11th-century cave located on the island of Bali at Bedulu Village. The site holds Buddhist and Hindu spiritual significance, and is still an active temple today. Immerse yourself in Bali’s cultural history with a quick visit to Goa Gajah.

Goa Gajah’s Mysterious Origins

Goa Gajah Image

via: axoplasm

The temple’s symbolic imagery suggests that Goa Gajah originated as a sanctuary for Hindu priests. However, Buddhist relics in the area suggest that the site held spiritual significance for early Balinese Buddhists.

Parts of the cave complex were not excavated until the 1950′s, and there still may be undiscovered relics in the area. You’ll see monks making offerings throughout the day. The Hindu section of the temple is largely intact, while the Buddhist areas are mostly in ruins.

Elephant Cave

Goa Gajah Ruins

via: Backpack Foodie

Researchers believe that Elephant Cave was dug entirely by hand. The cave is known for its demon-faced entrance. The spiritual symbols on the exterior of the cave are wonderfully intricate. The cave tour is not a long walk, as the interior of the cave is only several meters deep, with a small shrine inside. The cave is pitch black, with no outside or artificial light.

The Cave Is Not The Main Attraction

Goa Gajah Picture

via: j / f / photos

Walk past the Elephant Cave and down 40 steep, slippery steps, and you’ll feel like you’ve walked into an ancient Hindu civilization. A bathing pool contains holy (but murky) water. Fish ponds, a beautiful waterfall and magnificent flora transport visitors into a spiritual, meditative state. As you continue journeying along the paths you’ll come across picturesque rice paddies, giving you a glimpse of traditional Balinese society.

Don’t Be Taken By The “Tour Guides”

Goa Gajah Bathing Fountain

via: albill

Many souvenir vendors will attempt to be your tour guide, and charge you for the tour. Often these entrepreneurs will present themselves as “temple caretakers.” Avoid conversation with these vendors, as they will attempt to charge you 100,000+ rupiah for a very brief tour. Simply pretend that you do not speak English, and the guides should leave you alone.

Couple With A Ubud Temple Tour

Goa Gajah Bathing Fountain Photo

via: albill

Though the site is a fascinating glimpse into ancient history, the temple is small, and the tour is brief. Make a visit to Goa Gajah if you’re taking a Ubud temple tour, or if you’re making a trip to Ganung Kawi, Tirta Empul, and/or the Monkey Forest.

Conditions can be slippery, be sure to wear comfortable shoes for walking, and dress “temple-appropriate” (long pants or sarong). There are no handrails, and the temple is not wheelchair or stroller accessible.

The complex is open everyday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The entrance fee is Rp 15,000. We suggest visiting Goa Gajah in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds. You won’t need more than an hour to explore Goa Gajah’s mysterious origins for yourself.

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