Photo: Holy water on tap.

Goa Gajah

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Goa Gajah or “Elephant Cave” may be cave-like, but there are no pachyderms here, nor were there ever any in Bali (the ones at the elephant parks come from Sumatra).

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The name may refer to the elaborately carved elephant-like face over the man-made cave entrance, or perhaps the Ganesh statue within or even the Chinese-whispers of mistranslation of a nearby river. Regardless of the misnomer, Goa Gajah is a significant, yet perplexing Hindu-Buddhist archaeological site, and may well be the oldest in Bali possibly dating back to the tenth or 11th century.

Welcome! Photo taken in or around Goa Gajah, Ubud, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Welcome! Photo: Sally Arnold

The complex contains the aforementioned cave, a couple of temples, ancient bathing pools and some collapsed Buddhist relics all within a stunning jungle setting. The proximity to downtown Ubud makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area.

The menacing looking facade of the cave, a magnificent bulging-eyed demon, is carved directly out of the rock face, with gaping mouth ready to swallow you into the smallish T-shaped grotto. Apparently the intention of the evil looking character was to ward off evil rather than invite it, and the interior cave may have served for meditation purposes. While the cave is plenty large enough to stand and hold a bit of a crowd, if you suffer from claustrophobia, you may want to give it a miss.

Remnants. Photo taken in or around Goa Gajah, Ubud, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Remnants. Photo: Sally Arnold

Inside, to the left of the T intersection sits a small elephant-headed Ganesh statue, and to the right, an unusual triple lingga—a phallic Shaivite fertility symbol. Take a torch to have a good look as it’s poorly lit. The cave itself should see you buzzing through in about five minutes, possibly shorter than your time spent in the queue to enter.

To the left of the cave a small structure houses another ancient Ganesh statue along with a statue of Hariti and her many children, a popular fertility goddess plus a statue of a smiling ... Travelfish members only (Around 700 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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Goa Gajah
Five kilometres southeast of Ubud
Daily 08:00-17:00
Admission: 15,000 rupiah or 7,500 rupiah for kids. Visitors are required to wear a sarong and sash which are included in your entry fee. Parking is 5,000 rupiah for cars, and 2,000 rupiah for motorbikes.

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