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Goa Gajah / Elephant Cave Temple

Goa Gajah Temple is located in Bedulu Village, Blahbatuh District and about 5 km from Ubud. Goa Gajah mean Elephant Cave ( Goa = Cave, Gajah = Elephant ). Elephant Cave or Goa Gajah Temple is one of region most famous tourist sight, as well as one of its most significant historical markers. in addition to the caves hand tunneled through the face of the mountain, the complex above the petanu river include temple, statue, pavilion, and bathing pools.

In the courtyard in the front of the cave are two square bathing pool with water gushing into them from waterspouts held by six fimale figures. to the left of the cave entrance, in a small pavilion is a statue of Hariti, surrounded by children. the origin of the cave are uncertain, one tale relates that it was created by the mighty fingernails of the legendary giant Kebo Iwa. Originally the name of Goa Gajah is derived from Lwa Gajah, the former name of the river near the cave, the recent name being Petanu River.  Goa Gajah Temple is one of favorite Bali Tour direction

The large gaping mouth at the cave entrance is probably in honor of the Earth god Bhoma, or alternatively the witch Rangda. Wrapped up in symbolism, the scary cave entrance might mean one is being devoured or at least entering another reality. Many people view the temple entrance to be a a carved elephant’s head and apparently there are other animal shapes either side of the entrance.


The interior of the short cave is shaped like a T-junction. Inside the darkness takes a moment to get used to, although there in no danger of getting lost. The interior was cut my Balinese priests centuries ago by hand. Balinese legend says the giant Kebo Iwa carved the cave out with his fingernails in only 1 night. The Shiva Lingga (Hindu stone phallic symbols representing fertility), of which there are 3, are located at the end of right turn. At the end of the left turn is a Ganesha Statue. Shiva (the Destroyer) of course represents death. In many cultures around the world, for example the Amazonian tribes S. America, the shaman, or witch-doctor deals with the realm of death and transcendence. Perhaps the darkness and threatening nature of Goa Gajah was a place for early Balinese priests to delve into another reality temporarily.

Outside the cave at the pavilion is a statue of Men Brayut, the Balinese woman who together with her husband Pan could not stop having kids. The legend of Men Brayut is also represented in local Buddhist writings, under the name of Hariti, indicating a possible Buddhist association with Goa Gajah as well as Hindu. Past the bathing pools is a small ravine, the location of other Buddhist relics such a relief of a Buddhist stupa and Buddha images.


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