Sunday, June 10, 2018

Pura Goa Gaja

The first famous temple of Bali that we girls set our foot on, was the Balinese Ganesha temple, also known as Pura Goa Gaja or the Elephant Cave temple.

This temple is an ancient structure built in the 11th century as a spiritual place for meditation, when Bali was ruled by King Udayana and it was at rural Ubud,  the part of Bali which is still unspoilt by urbanization.  Most of the temples we visited, had magic woven into the stones and it was amazing to see the stone artwork.

When I heard the name Elephant cave temple, I was waiting for a gigantic dwelling of the God, full of pachyderms, but that was not to be. This is an archaeological site of significant historical value and is one among the top visit sites in the Island of Bali. Though we kept pronouncing Goa like our Indian state Goa, it actually has to be pronounced as Guha which means cave and Gajah  means Elephant.  Pura means Temple.
colourful Souvenir Shops on the way 
Some more interesting Souvenirs
We walked on a concrete footpath constantly reminded by Kevin, to watch our step, crossed a concrete pathway lined with brightly adorned souvenir shops and refreshment kiosks.  We were all dressed appropriately for a temple visit as we had read that our clothes need to be below our knees. We still had to tie a bright yellow Sarong, which looked like a Sash around our waists.  The temples would offer these Sarongs for the tourists at the entrance.  But they are particular about wearing them when inside the temple.

The central meditational cave entrance was a carved out stone structure that depicted a massive goblin like creature that looked straight into our eyes and we had to get inside its mouth.  The cave was itself small and shallow but anyone can feel its history rich in tradition along with a kind of mysticism.  
The Cave Entrance - look at the amazing stone work.

The main Deity - Balinese Ganesha
The main deity was Balinese Ganesha with a black and white checked Sarong and there were also other shrines, one which housed three Linga's representing the Hindu trinity, each wrapped in red, yellow and black clothes, within the cave. Black soot lines the cave walls and there are several empty indentations, which probably is the place where the meditating saints sat.  Probably.  Kevin also told us this is a shivaite temple, but i did notice some elements of Buddhism all over the temple. 

The Hndu Trinity

Inside the cave, All four of us fell silent, which is rare, Sudha meditated a while and we let the serenity fill us. And that's something I find quite enchanting with the four of us.  We are all chirpy, talking, laughing and making fun one moment, but when one of us needs the space, we all are willing to give it to each other and step back. 
The huge tree :to show the scale
From the cave we moved to a courtyard that has a century old ( or more than that) large tree.  The tree had a large black and white checked Sarong just like the deities.  We then descended to another courtyard and Wantilan, that is filled with relics that was excavated from the site, as late as the 1950's.

Relic Courtyard
We also saw a huge Buddha's head broken into two, and the sculpture had fallen into a river.  Somehow missed to click a picture of it.

The pool which is opposite to the site where the relics are kept, features five out of supposedly seven statues depicting Hindu angels holding vases that act as water spouts and we actually went down there but found the rocks a bit slippery so didn't really touch the water.  Kevin did tell us the names of these statues were Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswathy etc., its a pity, I do not remember them now. (whacking myself for noting it down and for not writing a blog immediately after our trip).
Water spouts
A sense of calm engulfed the four of us, as we took in all that ancient  history. In my head, i was relating how India and Bali were connected by Hinduism as well as Buddhism and how the religions are differently depicted and practiced in Bali.

Kevin must have had some relief from our chatter for a few minutes, then.

This post is inspired by Ramesh, one of the expert bloggers, I admire.  His travelogues are the best I have read.


  1. Awww. Too kind with your post script !

    Its interesting that Hinduism survived only in the island of Bali although Chola ships sailed to a number of places in South East Asia. Witness the Hindu sounding names all over Indonesia and yet its entirely a Muslim country. Buddhism was virtually extinguished in India, but has thrived in parts of South East Asia, although not in Indonesia. Fascinating history of how religions spread, thrived and fell.

    You must finish this travelogue soon ; or else you ladies would have already embarked in the next trip !

    How about a guest post from the other two ladies too ?

  2. I am going to ask the other two to write as well. I may have to do some bit of pushing for Jay and Rose.

    And Yes, history about religions is really fascinating.

  3. Vincy you took us back to our vacation !! Wonderful memories. Ubud is so unspoilt, the place and the people. Recalling, when we bought tender coconut at Goa Gaja the vendor asked us to buy just one for two people as the water content is more. Was wondering in comparison how our city dwelling vendors push sales especially to the tourists.
    So nice of you to observe and mention that we give space and time to one another. 😀
    Your blog is one place I want to come back to even after many many years, to virtually recreate our holidays. Cheers !!

    1. Yes, now that you mentioned it, I do remember this incident - Balinese people were quite helpful and also polite. The tender coconuts were almost as huge as a football.

      And yeah, the same reason why i put down my thoughts here. to revisit later and cherish all these memories.

  4. Anonymous9:14 PM

    Enaku terinjathellam kalla thoni gaja from "kadhanayagan" movie thaan..who drops pandiarajan/sve. sekar in cochin instead of dubai....u the oray enjoynu nalla teriuthu..looking at the pics it looks like india and our own tourist places..bit more cleaner..did it give such a feel to u as fell?


  5. Yes Gilsu. That's exactly how we too felt. It has so much of Indian semblance, though the architecture was different. Their sculptures and stone work looked a bit scary and violent with the intent of probably scaring away the evil spirits. The Gargoyles were ghastly on some places. And yes these places were all well maintained, clean and Baloney people had much more civic sense.


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