Goa Gajah, or Elephant Cave, is located on the island of Bali near Ubud and a short distance from Bedulu. Built in the 9th century, it served as a sanctuary. A carved entrance depicts entangling leaves, rocks, animals, ocean waves and demonic human shapes running from the gaping mouth which forms the entrance to the cave. The facade of the cave is a relief of various menacing creatures and demons carved right into the rock at the cave entrance. The primary figure was once thought to be an elephant, hence the nickname Elephant Cave. The site is mentioned in the Javanese poem Desawarnana written in 1365. Inside the cave one finds the Shiva lingum.
The monstrous Kala head that looms above the entrance seems to part the rock with her hands. Similarly decorated hermit cells are also found in Java. The large earrings indicate that the figure is that of a woman. The T-shaped interior of the rock-hewn cave contained niches which probably served as compartments for ascetics.
Goa Gajah is named after Sungai Petanu (Elephant River not an elephant as elephants are not found in Bali) and dates back to the 11th Century where it originally served as a dwelling for Hindu priests. Outside the cave at the pavilion is a statue of Men Brayut, the Balinese woman who together with her husband Pan could not stop having kids. The legend of Men Brayut is also represented in local Buddhist writings, under the name of Hariti, indicating a possible Buddhist association with Goa Gajah as well as Hindu. Outside the cave, an extensive bathing place on the site was not excavated until the 1950s. These appear to have been built to ward off evil spirits. It is an UNESCO World Heritage site.
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From Black & Whites (B&W)