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Goa Gajah – The Hindu Elephant Cave of Bali, Indonesia (In Indonesian)

Today’s The World Around Us will be presented in Indonesian, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai.

Greetings, warm-hearted viewers, and welcome to today’s The World Around Us on Supreme Master Television. On this episode, we’ll visit the Goa Gajah, a sacred place in Bali, Indonesia.

The Goa Gajah literally means “Elephant Cave.” It is located in Bedulu village, 26 km from Denpasar and just outside of Ubud. The elephant refers to Ganesha, one of the most well-known and revered Hindu deities. The son of Lord Shiva, Ganesha is the remover of obstacles and misfortunes and a god of wisdom and intellect, as well as a patron of the arts and sciences. In Bali, Ganesha is called Gana.

Pejeng, the area where the cave is, was once the capital of Bali during approximately the 9th to 14th century. With the shape of a “T,” this 7-meter deep cave cannot be dated exactly. Some predicted that it was built in the early period of the 10th century, the time of the Udayana Kingdom. The cave lies in a steep valley near Petanu River. It is a very tranquil area here, making it a wonderful place to meditate.

Now we are in Goa Gajah. Goa Gajah is located in Ubud, Indonesia. Long time ago, there was a kingdom; this kingdom had a king named Bedahulu. And its chief minister was named Kebo Iwa.

Behind me now is Goa Gajah, which was a meditation place for the kings and the saints who were the advisors to the king at the time.

The origin of the name, Goa Gajah, is uncertain. Some believe it correspondents to the words inscribed in this site, “Lwa Gajah,” meaning Elephant River, which was the old name for Petanu River. However, others suggest that it came from the statue of the Hindu god Ganesha inside the cave.

However, as Ganesha statues are found virtually everywhere in Bali, many scholars believe that the name of Elephant came from elsewhere. Two inscriptions issued by King Anak Wungsu in the 11th century refer to a hermitage known as “Jewel Elephant Village.”

The name sounds similar to a hermitage in India meaning “Elephant Forest Village.” It belonged to the Hindu sage Rsi Agastya, whose teachings had once reached as far as Bali. Thus, the Elephant Cave may have been associated with the Indian Hindu hermitage. For centuries, the cave was only known to the local villagers and bat inhabitants.

It was finally revealed to the greater public in 1923. In the southern part of the cave, not too far from its left side, there is a temple that was built after the site was unveiled to the public. The cave thus also came to be called Goa Gajah Temple. Goa Gajah Temple is one of most visited sacred sites in Bali.

It was added to the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on October 19, 1995. If we follow a path that leads to Petanu River, about 30 meters down the path, we find some Buddhist antiques on the river banks. Thus, Goa Gajah attests to the fact that Hindus and Buddhists lived peacefully here in this valley side-by-side. They co-existed harmoniously under the benevolent reign of the Pejeng-Bedahulu Dynasty whose seat was nearby.

In addition to the Buddhist antiquities found at the bank of the river, there are a number of small stupas in front of the cave. These used to be part of a Buddhist monastery from another temple about 10 km away from Goa Gajah. The cave of Goa Gajah has a massive face carved above the entrance.

This is a depiction of Bhoma, the son of the god Vishnu and the goddess Basundari or Ibu Pertiwi. Bhoma is thus like the child of the union of water and earth, which his parents represented, respectively. The result is the growth of plants.

In Sanskrit, Bhoma means “born of the earth,” and refers to trees and plantlife. Bhoma’s head at the cave entrance has around it reliefs of rocks and vegetation and living beings that illustrate a forest.

Bhoma appears again at the gateway of the temple, the kori agung. The kori agung gateway is a symbol of the holy mountain, Mount Mahameru, whose lower slopes are covered with rich forest, and whose top is where the gods come to reside. To reach the summit, a person must climb through the dense trees before entering the presence of the Divine gods. Similarly, at the entrance of the Goa Gajah cave, a person who enters past Bhoma’s image enters into the presence of the gods.

We’ll enter the sacred Elephant Cave when we continue our visit to Goa Gajah Temple in Bali, Indonesia. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television.

Welcome back to The World Around Us. We now continue our visit to the ancient Goa Gajah Temple in Bali, Indonesia.

Now we are inside of the cave, a place for meditation for the kings and their bodyguards and their saints.

Inside the cave, the atmosphere is quiet and calm. Centuries ago, through the prayers of the kings and his entourage, sincerity and purity filled the emptiness. Perhaps, their energy still lingers there till today. Within the cave, there is a main chamber with niches. The one facing the entrances displays stones as well as a fragment of a sculpture, possibly from a giant Buddha.

At the eastern end, we find a triple lingga of the Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. It represents the positive and negative aspects of creation. At the west end to the left, is a statue of Ganesha, the elephant-headed god.

He is holding an ax in his left hand, a small vessel to drink from is at his lower left, a ring of beads is on the top right, and his chipped tusk on the lower right. The ring of beads and trunk drinking from the vessel represent Ganesha as a god of infinite knowledge.

Altogether, these features show us that all adversities can be overcome with wisdom. The other niches were probably spaces reserved for meditation. Now, every year, hundreds of thousand visitors visit this cave to experience the tranquilty and spirtual atmosphere at this site. But Goa Gajah is more than a place for quietude.

Goa Gajah is a place for holding traditional ceremonies besides being a place for meditation.

Located just in front of the cave is a beautiful ritual bathing place. This part of the site was restored in the year 1954. Centuries before, it had become filled with a temple built on the site. The temple was then moved to its present position to the east of the cave.

On this right side is a bathing place that was used by all the king’s princess and their servants.

And this place, is a place for the kings and their princes. As you see there are three, three statues carrying pots that pour out water. They were used as showers by the king and his princes.

The bathing place has two large pools, with three statues for each pool. Every group has one male statue flanked by two female statues on both sides. This hermitage is like other large ancient hermitages in Bali, in that they have a bathing place.

We also can find such aesthetic bathing places like this in Telaga Waja, and the famous Tirta Empul in Tampak Siring. Ritual bathing placese are usually built in the area of natural springs. The Goa Gajah cave has a spring that is located several hundred meters to the east. The spring water was channeled through constructed water tunnels and to the spouts.

Parts of these ancient pipes still remain. The Balinese people have long enjoyed the abundance of fresh spring water, such that many of these bathing places were built. Although spout statues are quite frequently seen in Balinese art, only the ones at Elephant Cave are still in use today.

Now we are in the archeological site of god Ganesha. Ganesha was one of god Shiva’s sons who was believed as a god of protection from all disasters and as the cleanser from all impurities.

To the left of the cave entrance, there is a small edifice that houses three aged statues. They are of Ganesha, a lower level being, and the goddess Hariti. In Hindu mythology, Hariti is a goddess of fertility. Thus, she is shown with many children. In Bali, Hariti is called Men Brayut, with Men meaning mother.

In Buddhist mythology, Hariti was once a demon who devoured children, but later awakened to Buddhism and became a guardian protecting children. Her statue at Goa Gajah is one of the oldest ever found, dating to around the year 1000. It is clear based on the size and sophisticated features that the Elephant Cave was built with the support of the king. Which king, however, remains unknown, as does the exact age of the cave.

The kings at the time were advised by priests who were the religious leaders of the main groups of Siwaism and Buddhism. They indeed may have enjoyed using the caves for meditation and retreat.

However, in later times, the rulers did not practice “raja marga,” a form of spiritulaity which emphasizes meditation in solitude. Rather, they focused on “bakti marga,” which prioritized acts of service over inner contemplation. Nevertheless, pilgrims here in general enjoy a sense of serenity in and around the cave, an ambience enhanced by the sounds of flowing water and nature.

As we feel the tranquility here in Goa Gajah Temple, we pray for the peaceful world, and for the harmony among all beings on the planet.

Thank you for being with us on today’s The World Around Us. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television for more constructive progams. Coming up next is Words of Wisdom, after Noteworthy News. May Heaven bless you more abundantly with each day.

US Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate and mechanical engineer Matthew Stein is a leading expert on self-reliance and surviving the long emergency.

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Find out what items and skills go in your 72-hour “Grab-and-Run Kit” with emergency preparedness expert Matthew Stein. Part 1 of 2 airs on Friday, August 6 on Enlightening Entertainment.

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