Elephant Cave Temple of Goa Gajah

Goa Gajah also known as Elephant Cave Temple is a historically significant archaeological site and one of the most popular tourist attraction in Bali.

The Elephant Cave Temple of Goa Gajah dates as far back as the 11th century. Built on a hillside where two streams met to form a river junction, the site was deemed sacred and the temple was built for prayer and enclosed meditation.

goa gajah elephant cave temple

The entrance to the elephant cave depicts a giant menacing face whose wide open mouth forms the doorway. While there are various animal and forest motifs depicted by carvings on the outer rock face, the giant face of the doorway is considered to be that of an elephant.

Goa Gajah is carved into a rock face and you enter through the cavernous mouth of a demon. Inside the T-shaped cave you can see fragmentary remains of the lingam, the phallic symbol of the Hindu god Shiva.

And its female counterpart the yoni, plus a statue of Shiva's son, the elephant-headed god Ganesh. In front of the cave are two square bathing pools with waterspouts held by six female figures.

goa gajah

We are going dig deep to inform you everything you need to know before you visit the Elephnat Cave Temple of Goa Gajah, but feel free to jump to any section that interests you:

What to Expect at Goa Gajah

Goa Gajah set on the Petanu River at the edge of Bedulu Village, Goa Gajah is surrounded by the majestic rainforest with trickling streams and walking paths constructed to take you through the trees.

Access to the main grounds is down a flight of stairs from a roadside parking area lined with refreshment kiosks, souvenir shops and art stalls.

goa gajah

As you reach the base you will come upon the large wantilan meeting hall and a collection of large ancient stone carvings, some which have been restored to their former glory.

A few yards of the cave that is in the middle of cave courtyard, there is a pond of Patirtaan, a place to take Tirta or holy water for the ceremony.

The holy pond was originally buried in the ground and successfully found in 1954 by Krijgsman from department of antiquities.

This holy pond is completed by the statues equipped by showers in form of Widyadara-Widyadari (angels) arranged in a group of three lines with 6 statues ( 5 statues have been put back).

Perhaps at first time there 7 fountain statues, a statue was set in the middle as interrupter but its existence has not been known until now.

goa gajah

The existence of 7 fountain statues are based on the concept of Sapta Tirtha, the seven holy water which has a purity equal to Sapta Nadi (seven purified river includes Gangga, Sindhu, Saraswati, Yamuna, Godawari, Serayu and Narmada.

It is symbolic meaning that taking the water from each fountain has as sacred value like the sacred of Sapta Nadi.

Throughout the temple complex, a variety of structures bare Hindu influences which date back to the 10th century as well as relics which feature some elements of Buddhism that date back even earlier, as far back as the 8th century.

The cave itself is actually quite shallow, yet inside you will find three stone idols wrapped individually in yellow, red and black cloth.

Visitors may be curious about the black soot lines that mark the cave’s walls, however despite their mysterious appearance they are merely the result of incense burning.

Those with a keen eye will be able to spot a number of indentations which are a testament to the places where priests once sat to meditate.

goa gajah

At the southern end are beautiful rice fields and small streams that lead to the Petanu River – another natural site entwined in local legends.

The northern side of the temple complex is dominated by Buddhist culture while across the river in the south is predominantly Shivaite.

Goa Gajah Address & Map Location

The address of Goa Gajah is located in the village of Bedulu, Blahbatuh distric, Gianyar Regency, Bali, Indonesia

Approximately 13 minutes drive from central Ubud, or 1,5 to 2 hours drive by car from Nusa Dua, Jimbaran, Kuta, Seminyak area.

Here is an accurate position of Goa Gajah on the Google map

How to Get to Goa Gajah

The easiest way to get to Goa Gajah is by hiring a motorbike or car with driver, as this places is easily accessible from any areas of Bali.

If you coming from Ubud just by drive to south of Ubud past the monkey sanctuary toward Bedulu, then turn east (left) onto Jalan Raya Goa Gajah. Numerous signs indicate the way to Goa Gajah as well as other attractions.

However if you come from south Bali area, you need 1,5 to 2 hours drive to north east just follow Jl. By Pass Ngurah Rai and Jl. Prof. Dr. Ida Bagus Mantra to Jl. Pantai Saba in Saba.

Continue on Jl. Pantai Saba. Take Jl. Padat Karya to Jl. Kebo Iwa in Blahbatuh. Then Take Jl. Udayana and Jl. Raya Semebaung to Jl. Raya Goa Gajah in Bedulu.

Another 2 minutes you will see a signboard of "Wecome to Goa Gajah" which located on the right side of the road.

Goa Gajah Entrance Fee

Visit to the Elephant Cave Temple of Goa Gajah are subject to an entrance fee of 15,000 IDR per person for adult and 7,500 IDR per person for child.

The ticket can be bought at the ticket counter in the parking which located just next to the entrance gate of Goa Gajah.

goa gajah entrance fee

And the payment should be cash in Indonesian Rupiah (IDR), so please prepare small cash before you come here.

Before you go to the temple area please be respectful at all times. Wear a sarong while visiting this temple complex, and make sure bare knees and shoulders are not visible.

Goa Gajah Opening Hours

The Elephant Cave Temple of Goa Gajah is open for visitor daily from 08.00 AM to 05.00 PM, however for worship purpose it is open for 24 hours daily.

Before you go to the temple area please be respectful at all times. Wear a sarong while visiting this temple complex, and make sure bare knees and shoulders are not visible.

As with any temple in Bali, women during their periods are forbidden entrance and wearing a sarong and waist sash is a must.

Goa Gajah Dress Code

Temples are an integral part of the local Balinese culture and as an outsider, provide a fascinating insight into the local way of life.

However, visitors should keep in mind that temples are holy places of worship and as such, respect should be shown at all times. That goes especially for how to dress appropriately so as not to cause offense.

goa gajah

As you visit of any temples in Bali, both men and women should wear a sarong, scarf or sash tied around the waist. Sarong and sash are available for rent at the entrance of Goa Gajah.

Oher conduct tips to follow are:

  • Don’t take photos directly in front of worshippers.
  • Don’t Step Over or Tread on Offerings - Small offerings called canang sari are often left on the ground. Palm leaves are woven into a small box and flower petals herbs, money, snacks are inside. These offerings are to appease the spirits. Be careful where you’re walking.
  • Don't enter a temple if bleeding - Menstruating women and women who have given birth in the last 6 weeks may not enter temples. Likewise, if you have an open wound or injury you should not enter a temple.
  • Respect the local culture - Don't forget that you are in a holy place of worship. Use your common sense and act appropriately. The Balinese welcome visitors of all religions and are happy to share their traditions and customs, so treat their temples as you would your own.
  • As long as you remember that the temple you are in is a space of reverence to the Balinese people, and treat it as such, your temple visit is sure to bring you the happiness and enlightenment you seek.

Best time to visit Goa Gajah

Goa Gajah is best to visit at any time, as this temple open for visitor daily from 08.00 AM to 05.00 PM.

Since the cave is typically visited in conjunction with other outdoor attractions, it’s a good idea to plan for Bali’s dry season, between April and October.

However during the temple festival is the best time to visit. Goa Gajah temple festival will be on an 'Anggara Kasih Prangbakat' Tuesday on the Balinese 210-day Pawukon calendar, corresponding to different dates on the Gregorian calendar each year (consult a local).

Goa Gajah History

With a history dating back more than 1,000 years, one of Bali’s holiest Hindu sites (and most popular attractions) is a grotto covered in carvings of mythological creatures.

The origins of the cave are uncertain; one tale relates that it was created by the fingernail of the legendary giant Kebo Iwa. It probably dates to the 11th century, and was certainly in existence during the Majapahit takeover of Bali.

goa gajah

The complex contains both Hindu and Buddhist imagery, as the cave contains lingam and yoni, symbol of Shiva, and the image of Ganesha, while by the river there are carved images of stupas and chattra, imagery of Buddhism.

The cave was rediscovered by Dutch archaeologists in 1923, but the fountains and bathing pool were not discovered until 1954.

Goa Gajah, literally means 'Elephant Cave”. Although named by 'elephant' it doesn't mean there is any real elephant live or ever live here.

The name Goa Gajah derived from 'Lawa Gajah', which is mentioned in the manuscripts that found in this site. T

The Goa Gajah's name is written on Negara Kertagama 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. Among the local residents, the Goa Gajah is better known as Elephant Cave Temple.

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.

goa gajah

The site is mentioned in the Javanese poem Desawarnana written in 1365. An extensive bathing place on the site was not excavated until the 1950s.

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, and to reach the entrance of the cave, you need to walk down a long flight of stairs.

The Elephant Cave Temple of Goa Gajah was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on October 19, 1995, in the Cultural category.

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