Goa Gaja – The Elephant Cave

Goa Gaja, known as the Elephant Cave, is nothing short of extraordinary. Dating back to the 9th century, this was and still is a sacred temple site of the Hindus. The entrance to the cave is covered with carved figures. Upon entering through the yawning mouth of the beast, the air instantly becomes oppressively thick and dead. The cavern is small and ‘T’ shaped with Ganesha in a niche straight ahead. The two chambers off the center each hold another deity.

The monsters guarding the entrance wear plaid sarongs with the colors of the three-part god, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, red, blue, and white. Brahma is fire, Vishnu is water, Shiva is wind. Maybe this is true. Maybe not. Sometimes it depends upon who is telling the story!

In 1950 the baths at Goa Gaja were excavated. It was believed by the early Balinese that this was the fountain of youth. Now the waters that pour from the jars held by six maidens are considered holy water and used for purification in the ceremonies. For this photo I am standing high above on a path cut into the side of the mountain. You can see the thatched roof below me.

There are three maidens below and to the right, and another three maidens holding their jars stand beside the pool just to the left of these.

This is a community meeting place where they plan the ceremonies and festivals that are held here.

We walked around this building and there below us was a lush jungle valley with a b’zillion steps leading down into it. As I descended the stone stairs I had to stop on each landing to take pictures and to breathe, and that was going DOWN. The air was thicker and more humid with each step.


I remember reading a book in high school by Richard Llewellyn about a Welsh mining community. It was a wonderful story. The title was, How Green was My Valley. I thought of that today gazing at the impossible green-ness of this valley.

On the valley floor were huge carved pieces of a Buddhist temple scattered in an irregular line. At some point in history an earthquake or a mudslide tumbled them from their perch on the side of the mountain and deposited them in the midst of the stream.

I followed a narrow path (in spite of my aversion to high, narrow places) around the side of a jutting rock and found this cascading waterfall.

It came from up there…

I was mesmerized by this incredible root system…

and this cluster of delicate white flowers with the orange blossom surprise adding a splash of color.

Being in this place is pure magic and I suddenly realize why. It’s because I can actually see it. There aren’t hundreds of people tramping up and down the stairs and stopping in front of me to take pictures. The only others here at this hour of the morning are a woman placing offerings and a gardener. I feel like I have stepped into the pages of a fairytale where colors are brighter, trees are taller, scents are sweeter and life is bliss.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jan
    May 02, 2012 @ 23:27:26

    What wonderful, incredible pictures, Sherry!



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