Goa Gajah - The Elephant Cave

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June 2nd 2010
Published: June 2nd 2010
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I decided it was time to get out of Ubud and see a bit more of the country. I signed up for the archeological tour with Perama, a big tour and transport company in this part of Indonesia, with a strong presence on the web.

Unfortunately, Perama needs a minimum number of people to run a tour. With their main offices in Kuta, the magnet for surf-mad Australians, it is no wonder that the archeology tour didn’t take place.

However, as so often happens in Bali, the tour expeditor said to me, “Not to worry, madam. My friend here has transport. He is very good driver, he can give you tour.”

I had a chat with the driver. Yes, he had a car. (Sometimes “transport” means the back of a motorbike.) Yes, we could stop at a batik shop. Yes, we would go up to the volcano. I determined he spoke reasonably good English, though, as I later found out, not good enough to explain some of the details of the shrines we were to visit.

For a mere 50,000 rupiah more (about US $5.50) than the original tour would have cost, we made arrangements to meet
Entrance to Goa GajahEntrance to Goa GajahEntrance to Goa Gajah

You run the gamut of small shops getting to the actual temple.
the next day.

To get to the site you need to run the familiar gamut of women trying to sell you something: “Please, miss, just look.” “Sarong, madam? You need sarong to visit temple,” and the beat goes on. You pay a small fee, about 65 cents US, to get onto the temple grounds, and that also gives you the use of a sarong - whether you are male or female - if you are wearing shorts or a skirt that doesn’t come to your calf.

The shrine itself dates back to at least the 11th century. It has held religious significance for both Buddhists and Hindus. In front of the cave proper there are carved pools of holy water, said to be used for healing.

The cave itself is rather small and pitch dark. You enter through the carved mouth of a very large demon (hmm… I wonder what the significance of that is) and into a T-shaped chamber. To the left is a statue of Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Parvati and a popular figure in Hindu mythology. To the right there are three lingam representing Brahma , the Hindu name of God, Vishnu, the creator, and Shiva, the destroyer. Or at least that is what my driver told me. Along the sides of the cave are small niches, formerly used by monks for meditation

Past the cave itself is a truly beautiful river that cuts through the jungle. Along the river path you come across the ruins of an old Buddhist temple that has tumbled from the side of the hill. I can only marvel at the detail carved into the stone so many centuries ago.

Bali, May 2010

Additional photos below
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The cave is quite dark, and you can just make out the statue of Ganesha.
Old ruinsOld ruins
Old ruins

An old Buddhist Temple tumbled off the side of the hill.
Old ruinsOld ruins
Old ruins

Temple detail

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