02 January 2013

Bali - Goa Gajah

Goa Gajah, the beautiful archeological site in Blahbatuh, Gianyar, is very popular with foreign tourists, with thousands visiting, even in off-peak season.

It is one of the most visited destinations after Tanah Lot and Uluwatu Temple. In the past, Siwa and Buddhist priests visited Goa Gajah to meditate. The name Goa Gajah is taken from the words Lwa Gajah, which were inscribed in the Negarakertagama, an old manuscript written by Mpu Prapanca in 1365.

On entering, visitors are welcomed by the sounds of trickling water in the Pertiran pool running from the water jars carried by the angel statues. These statues are believed to be symbols of the seven sacred rivers in India, where Hindu and Buddhist teachings originated. The flowing water in the pool is believed to represent fertility. A modest entrance fee is charged here; an adult visitor will pay Rp 15,000, while children above the age of 5 are charged half price. The price is the same for both local and foreigner visitors.

The face of the demonic Bhoma adorns the 13-meter-long cave, suggesting that visitors are entering the darkness. Being a sacred site, there are some rules that have to be followed by visitors: dress, speech and behavior should all be respectful. The management provides free sarongs and scarves for visitors who are inappropriately dressed, including those wearing shorts, to borrow.

The 13-meter-long cave, shaped like the letter T, leads back from the cliff wall that visitors pass when they enter the location. Above the cave entrance, there is a giant relief of the face of Bhoma. There are also 15 niches that used to be meditation sites set into the cave walls. The cave is only one part to this 16,100-square-meter area. The main attraction of the site is the temple adorned by Ganesha, who is symbolized as an elephant-headed human. The temple is still visited by Buddhists and Balinese Hindus. Goa Gajah temple is a symbol of Hindu and Buddhist acculturation, and is also one of the Kahyangan temples, meaning that Hindu adherents from anywhere may pray here. This national heritage site was built in the 11th century and found by a Dutch archeologist in 1923.

Gianyar is home to many of the island’s rich archeological sites, mostly located along the riverbanks of the Pakerisan and Petanu rivers in Blahbatuh and Tampaksiring. The Pakerisan watershed has recently been selected to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with other sites in Bali. The area boasts many traces of old Balinese kingdoms, as well as beautiful panoramic views of rice terraces. Other fascinating archaeological sites adjacent to Goa Gajah include Yeh Pulu, Subak Kadangan temple and Samuan Tiga temple.

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