Goa Gajah or Elephant Cave
Located just 10 minutes outside of Ubud in Bali, Goa Gajah is a significant Hindu archaeological site. Goa Gajah is locally known as the Elephant Cave because of its close proximity to the Elephant River. A mysterious cave, relics, and ancient bathing pools set amid green rice paddies and a garden lure tourists from nearby Ubud. The menacing entrance to Goa Gajah looks like a demonic mouth, suggesting that people are entering an underworld as they venture inside through the darkness. Some claim that the entrance represents the Hindu earth god Bhoma while others say the mouth belongs to the child-eating witch Rangda from Balinese mythology. Goa Gajah was listed as a tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
The History of Goa Gajah
Goa Gajah is thought to date back to the 11th century, although relics predating this time were found within proximity of the site. The first mention of Goa Gajah and the Elephant Cave was in the Javanese poem Desawarnana written in 1365. Despite the ancient significance of the Elephant Cave, the last excavation took place during the 1950s; many sites still remain unexplored. Literal piles of relics with unknown origins have been laid out in a surrounding garden. The leading theory suggests that Goa Gajah was used as a hermitage or sanctuary by Hindu priests who dug the cave entirely by hand. Although accredited as a sacred Hindu site, a number of relics and the close proximity of a Buddhist temple suggest that the site held special significance to early Buddhists in Bali.
Inside the Elephant Cave
For such a busy tourist attraction, the Elephant Cave itself is actually quite small. As you enter through the dark, narrow passage, the cave abruptly ends in an intersection. The left passage contains a small niche with a statue of Ganesh, the Hindu deity reminiscent of an elephant. The right passage holds a small worship area with several stone lingam and yoni in honor of Shiva.
Tourist Destinations and Facilities
Since it is appointed as tourist destination, Gua Gajah is many visited by tourist everyday due to it is strategically located on the main road Ubud – Kintamani. Kintamani Volcano Tour is one of the famous land tour in Bali usually put this tourist destination on the tour itinerary. It was well completed by public facilities like toilet, parking area and souvenir shops available.