Goa Gajah / Elephant Cave
About ten minutes outside of Ubud center lies Goa Gajah, or the Elephant Cave. This sacred Hindu site was derived somewhere between the 9th and 11th century, and is maintained by the local people. For a small donation they will guide you around the grounds and beyond. I highly recommend this, as there are no signs or explanations as to what you are looking at. Additionally, when visiting this site, or any of the sacred places in Bali, you will need to be dressed appropriately. Appropriate attire usually entails: a sarong for both men and women, a sash to tie around your waist, and in some cases a head-piece (for men).
The entrance of the cave, being a huge and fearsome face, is hard to miss. The carvings on the either side of the entrance contain depictions of various creatures. Look, and you will see a pig, a turtle, monkeys, and humans. Our guide explained that the main craving represents Bhoma, the son of the earth – which makes sense given all of the earthly creatures carved around his head. Entering the cave can feel a bit foreboding as it gives you the distinct impression that you are being swallowed. Once inside however, the cave is quite small and takes the form of a “T.” On the right hand side of the cave sit three stone linggas in honor of the three primary Balinese deities: Brahma, Wisnu, and Siwa. To the left sits the statue of Ganesha.
Upon exiting the cave you will want to explore the surrounding area! Trust me this is not to be missed! Our guide directed us through a stone passageway to the left of Goa Gajah’s main grounds, down stone steps, and into gorgeous surroundings containing waterfalls, rice patties, black bamboo, and two fallen statues of Buddha. Wandering through here you are left with an overwhelming feeling, one that seems to resonate throughout your senses, and is simply . . . Bali.