Gua Gajah, located in Bedulu Village, Gianyar, is a historical and spiritual site that draws visitors with its ancient allure. Carved into a rock face, the cave complex features a stunning entrance adorned with intricate carvings and offers a glimpse into Bali’s prehistoric era.
Mpu Prapanca has compiled the Sasra Kekawin (Bali traditional literary work) Nagarakretagama (1365 AD), first mentioning Lwa Gajah and Bedahulu. Pupuh 14/3 precisely details regions east of Java under Majapahit rule, introducing the name Lwa Gajah, which translates to Elephant River. It is believed that this river, possibly the current Petanu River, was referenced in the ancient text.
The appellation Gua Gajah, or Elephant Cave, is thought to originate from a monumental carving above the cave’s entrance, resembling the face of an elephant. Another interpretation suggests the name stems from the presence of a statue depicting Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, positioned in one of the niches within the cave. These historical nuances provide a captivating glimpse into the origins and cultural significance of Lwa Gajah, adding layers to its identity rooted in ancient tales and artistic representations.
The exploration of Gajah Cave traces back to 1923 when the Dutch East Indies officially became LC. Heyting reported the discovery of Ganesha, Trilingga, and Hariti statues for the Dutch East Indies government. Dr. WF. Stutterheim furthered the research in 1925. Subsequent endeavours, led by J.L Krijgman from the Indonesian Antiquities Service between 1954 and 1979, unearthed an ancient shrine with six nymph statues featuring water fountains on their chests. This shrine continues to exude a purifying aura believed to resonate with visitors.
In 1931, Mr. Conrat Spies uncovered significant remnants in the Tukad Pangkung complex, including a three-pronged stupa carved into a collapsed stone wall at the base. Since 1950, when the Indonesian Antiquities Agency established the Bali branch under J.C. Krijgsman, focused research intensified. Noteworthy findings emerged in 1951/1952 during excavations in the cave’s front yard, revealing an ancient rectangular foundation with its front wall forming one of its long sides.
During the same period, cracks appeared in the cave ceiling due to frangipani tree roots on the cliff. Two stone fragments surfaced while cleaning the soil and roots—one from the top of a giant’s head above the cave opening and another carved part of the eastern wall. A solid stone sword was also unearthed, believed to be part of a giant statue in front of the cave.
Gua Gajah was a crucial site during the prehistoric era, acting as a meditation centre for early Balinese monks. The cave’s unique architecture and spiritual ambience provided an ideal setting for contemplation, fostering a connection between nature and spirituality.
- Ancient Cave: Step into the mysterious cave with intricate carvings depicting mythological figures and scenes from Hindu epics.
- Sacred Spring: Discover the holy spring believed to have healing properties, surrounded by ancient stone carvings and bathing structures.
- Hindu Temple: Explore the adjacent Hindu temple, featuring statues and shrines that add a spiritual dimension to the site.
- Petanu River: Follow the course of the nearby Petanu River, resembling an elephant’s head, and soak in the natural beauty that complements Gua Gajah’s cultural significance.
- Archaeological Artifacts: Witness the archaeological artefacts discovered on-site, providing insights into Bali’s ancient past.
- Handicraft Shops: Browse through handicraft shops surrounding Gua Gajah, offering unique Balinese souvenirs and traditional crafts.
- Historical Site: Gua Gajah is recognized as a historical site, showcasing the evolution of Balinese culture and spirituality over the centuries.
Include Gua Gajah in your Bali explorations with tours like the Ubud Tour, Rafting Ubud Tour, Elephant Ride Ubud Tour, and the scenic Kintamani Tour. These packages ensure a holistic experience, combining the historical immersion of Gua Gajah with the natural beauty and adventure Bali offers.
Other Tourist Attractions Nearby
Extend your journey beyond Gua Gajah to discover nearby attractions such as Tampak Siring, Ubud Village, Tegallalang Rice Terrace, the majestic Gunung Kawi, and the serene Gunung Kawi Sebatu. Also, you can discover other tourist attractions that you may want to put on your tour agenda, such as Ubud Palace, Ubud Art Market, Ubud Monkey Forest, Puri Lukisan, Batuan Temple, and Tegenungan Waterfall.