Ganesha in Bali – The Goa Gajah cave and more

Last night I had a dream – I dreamt that I was in Bali, journeying under water , looking for an ancient cave. The dream was very vivid – from the clothes I wore, to the colours of the sea, the forests , the waters and the wonderful old cave itself. I woke up , thinking I was in a world of fantasy and realised that the dream was triggered by the  many memories of  my Bali trip.I had just then downloaded 400 pics  and had uploaded a few of them in Facebook.

The memories brought back the rush of my first scuba diving experience , especially for a non swimmer like me .And the first ever monument I set foot in was the mystical Goa Gajah cave temple, built in the 11th century , but excavated only recently. I guess the dream was incepted by these two memories and the many emotions that resulted in seeing the pictures.

” Indian ? Are you a Hindu ? Im a Hindu too ?”This is a line that frequently opened all conversations and also ended in negotiations. We were at the  Goa Gajah temple , near Ubud where my driver mentioned that its a 11th century cave shrine dedicated to the Ganesha and the trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva , all represented in the form of lingas.

I always thought ” Goa ” was pronounced like the state, Goa. Later my driver said it meant cave and its pronounced as ” Guha” and ” Gajah ” is elephant. I told him that in many Indian languages – Guha means cave and gajah – elephant and ganesha was indeed the Elephant God of the Indian Hindus as well.

The excavated site has many interesting monuments – tanks, shrines, statues..and suddenly one old Indonesian walks up to me and says ” See Buddha..see ” ..Im not sure if he is referring to the diety Buddha as this was a Hindu site, but later I understand that he is actually pointing out to the faces carved on the rocks , which is believed to be a diety – Buddha or not, Im not sure though.

I saw quite a few depictions of Ganesha in Bali – the one I remember is a warrior like deity, like this statue that was atop a house. As we walked in and out of several temples in Bali, I was struck by the similarity and yet the difference..We hear a version of the gayatri mantra , while a local vendor tries hard to sell us the Om Nama Shivaya.

Bali Tourism is not just about caves and temples. There are performing arts, local cultural festivals besides adventure activities. If you are planning to drive around Bali like we did, I would suggest that you get yourself a map of Bali before heading out so that you can cover many sites on the way.


  1. Anu 14 September, 2010 at 12:54 Reply

    I loved the pic of the cave… so beautiful!!! and the place really sounds interesting…. i have been reading about so many such interesting hindu temples in the area, and about how they originated.. and was wondering what it would have been like to live in those days.. then again, maybe we did, and dont remember????

  2. Jeevan 16 September, 2010 at 15:31 Reply

    Interesting bali! Its really worth checking the pictures, and those were awesome excavation and structures of Mother besakih temple is beautiful.

    The cave looks like the mysterious ones that come in movies!

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