Known worldwide for its rich culture, beautiful landscapes, and sacred atmosphere, Bali has endless attractions to be visited. One of the most famous to visit is Ubud, a cool region in Bali where the natural scenery can be seen on a daily basis. The natural beauty of Ubud has been attracting tourists all over the world for years, and among the popular ones is the sacred Hindu-Buddhist archeological site called Goa Gajah Temple. This Temple is the perfect spot for those who enjoy the rich historical site, as well as natural landscapes.

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Goa Gajah Temple (or literally means Elephant Cave), is one of the historical sites in Bali. Located in the famous Ubud Region, Goa Gajah is only 6 kilometers from the center of Ubud. Therefore, you can rent a car to reach Goa Gajah at Bedulu Village. Built during the 10th to the 11th century, this temple is believed to be among the oldest in Bali and was built as a place for meditation. The Dutch archeologist found the place around 1923. The complex consists of archeological sites including rock-wall carvings, central mediation cave, bathing pools, and fountains.

Goa Gajah
Photo by Novita Restiati. IG: @novitarestiati

The uncertainty of the origins of Goa Gajah only adds to its mythical ambiance. No one knows for certain where did it get the name of Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave). There is no elephant’s sanctuary surrounding the area whatsoever. But some suggest that the name was taken after the river surrounding the site, Petanu River. In the past, Petanu River was also called Lwa Gajah or Elephant River, thus the cave called Goa Gajah. Another version said that the name came from the statue of Lord Ganesh located inside the cave. The Hindu people believed that Lord Ganesh is depicted as an elephant’s head and having a human body.

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Upon entering the complex, you will be greeted with various shops selling souvenirs, arts, and crafts, and beverages. Don’t forget to buy one of these to bring home as a remembrance that you have been to one of the most sacred places in Bali. The main feature of this place is the man-made cave where the visitors may enter a cave entrance shaped like the mouth of a demon, although some say it also resembles the mouth of an elephant. The giant rock entrance is carved so beautifully – mythical and sophisticated. The mouth with bulging eyes is actually a nature God believed to cleanse the visitors when entering the cave. Surrounding the giant mouth are nature motifs such as trees and animals.

Goa Gajah Bali
Photo by Novita Restiati. IG: @novitarestiati

Inside the cave, you will find that the wall was blackened by the incense, some remnants of lingam and yoni. Those are symbols of Hindu God Shiva while yoni is the female counterpart. And there sits the God Ganesha and inscription Antakunjarapada, that translated into the elephant’s border. Another feature of this complex is the pool holy baths or petirtaan that was found during the excavation in 1954. It depicts five out of seven statues of Hindu angels holding vases as the waterspouts.

Photo by Novita Restiati. IG: @novitarestiati

The surrounding of Goa Gajah Temple Complex is another feature to be adored. There are rice fields on the southern end, small streams are passing the fields and forming river junction. The place where the streams met is where Goa Gajah was built for its sacred ambiance. This place is also the spot to meditate and pray. The southern part of Goa Gajah Complex also holds unique features as in this place you will find fragments of rock carving that was the remnants of Buddhist housing domes or stupas.

 fragments of rock carving
Photo by Novita Restiati. IG: @novitarestiati

Bits of Tips while Visiting Goa Gajah

Goa Gajah is a popular destination for tourists, therefore try to avoid the crowds by arriving before 10 am. Goa Gajah is open from 8 am to 4 pm. The road from the center of Ubud to Goa Gajah is pretty smooth, therefore you will not find too many challenges to get to Goa Gajah. Like other temples in Bali, women during their period is forbidden to enter the temple. You also need to wear sarong that is available for rent in the area. Now that’s pretty much everything you need to know before going to Goa Gajah.

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