Things to Do in Bali: Visit the Elephant Cave

May 23, 2012

Just 6 kilometers from our Bali villa, Goa Gajah or the “Elephant Cave” is one of Bali’s most historically significant and mysterious sites. Not much is known about this site, but a mix of Hindu and Buddhist representations make for a unique visit among things to do in Bali. Built around the 11th century, it was discovered in 1923 and only partially excavated in the 1950s. Goa Gajah may be known as the Elephant Cave because of its close proximity to the Elephant River or because one of the primary creatures carved into the rock at the cave entrance resembles an elephant.

It is believed that Goa Gajah was used as a hermitage or sanctuary by Hindu priests. However, a nearby Buddhist temple suggests that the site was also sacred to early Balinese Buddhists. While the entrance to the cave is quite dramatic (you enter through a demon’s gaping, fanged mouth that may represent the Hindu earth god or possibly “Rangda”, a child-eating witch from Balinese mythology), the cave itself is very small. Inside the cave you will find a statue of the Hindu god Ganesha , and two altars with fertility symbols (yoni and lingam). The crevices inside the cave may have been secret meditation chambers.

Built at the confluence of two small rivers, the bathing pools in the cave’s courtyard contain water that is said to possess magical youth-preserving powers. When visiting Goa Gajah, keep in mind that this cave is an active worship site – please wear proper dress and be respectful of people who are praying.

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