Goa Gajah

Goa Gajah The Elephant Cave Temple

Goa Gajah’s name is slightly misleading, lending the impression that it’s a gigantic dwelling full of elephants. Nevertheless, Goa Gajah ‘Elephant Cave’ is an archaeological site of significant historical value that makes it a special place to visit. Located on the cool western edge of Bedulu Village, six kilometres out of central Ubud, you do not need more than an hour to descend to its relic-filled courtyard and view the rock-wall carvings, a central meditational cave, bathing pools and fountains.

Goa Gajah dates back to the 11th century, built as a spiritual place for meditation. The main grounds are down a flight of steps from the roadside and parking area, which is lined with various art and souvenir shops and refreshment kiosks. Upon reaching the base you will come across a large ‘wantilan’ meeting hall and an assortment of large old stone carvings, some restored to their former full glory. The pool, excavated in 1954, features five out of supposedly seven statues depicting Hindu angels holding vases that act as waterspouts.

Various structures reveal Hindu influences dating back to the 10th century, and some relics feature elements of Buddhism dating even earlier to the 8th century. The cave is shallow; inside are three stone idols each wrapped in red, yellow and black cloths. Black soot lines the cave’s walls as result from the current-day incense burning. Several indentations show where meditating priests once sat. The northern side of the complex is dominantly Buddhist while south across the river it’s mostly Shivaite.

At the southern end are beautiful rice fields and small streams that lead to the Petanu River – another natural site entwined in local legends. Goa Gajah was built on a hillside and as two small streams met here forming a campuhan or ‘river junction’, the site was considered sacred and was built for hermetic meditation and prayers.

Even though the site’s name translates into ‘Elephant Cave’, you won’t find any pachyderms here. Various theories suggest the origin of the name, such as back in time the Petanu River was originally called ‘Lwa Gajah’, meaning the ‘River Gajah’, before it came to be called Petanu River. Other sources state that the ‘Gajah’ or elephant aspect came from the stone figure inside the cave depicting the Hindu lord Ganesh, who is characterised by an elephant’s head. Ancient inscriptions also allude to the name Antakunjarapada, which roughly translates to ‘elephant’s border’. The cave’s entrance shows a menacing giant face with its wide open mouth as the door. Various motifs depicting the forest and animals are carved out of the outer rock face. The giant face was considered to be that of an elephant’s.

Goa Gajah – Bali Heritage Site

The word of Goa Gajah is anticipated coming from the word of Lwa Gajah, the name of Buddhist Temple or hermitage for Buddhist monk. The Goa Gajah’s name is written on Negarakeertagama papyrus which is compiled by Mpu Prapanca on 1365 M. Lwa or Lwah/loh mean the river and it reflect to the meaning that the hermitage is located at Gajah River or in Air Gajah. In the year inscription 944 Saka, it is mentioned with the name of ‘ser ring Air Gajah’ that is meaning the Subak leader in Air Gajah. The word has mentioned that the hermitage of Lwa Gajah is located in Subak Air Gajah.

There is a relief almost looking like the form of mountain on the entrance of this Bali Elephant Cave. It was carved many designed on the relief like grove with the stick, close leaf, animal for example forest pig, tortoise and specters. The bas-relief decorates the mount of cave with the eye turn around to the right or west side. There is an article letter of Kediri type from the early of 11 century was written on the wall left side or east side. There is a pool (Patirthaan) as a place to take the holy Tirtha water for Hindu ceremony. The pool location in the middle of the cave courtyard. This Holy Pool is previously piled up by land and it has been found on 1954 by Krijgsman from the Ancient Department. The Holy pool is equipped by the statue douche which is parallel arranged in two groups.

Public Facilities

  • Parking Area
  • Public Toilet
  • Souvenir Shop
  • Food Stall
  • Drink Stall