Gunung Kawi: Bali’s Ancient Rocky Temple




     If I were to choose only one temple to visit in Bali, this would be on top of my list.  For one, it is quite difficult to get to (descending then ascending a mountain trail) so there are very few tourists who come here.  In fact, we were the only tourists there at that time! There was a group of locals who were there to worship and do some offering, probably for an auspicious occasion (they appear like a prospective bride and groom).  Another reason would be because of its’ uniqueness.




     Gunug Kawi is an ancient rocky temple situated in Pakerisan River, near Tampaksiring village – Gianyar Regency in Bali. This archaeological complex is carved out of the living rock, dating back to 11th century. The temple with majesty and richness in history has been proposed by the Governor of Bali to be listed as one of the World Heritage Sites.






     To reach the complex, visitors must walk about 600 meters from the parking lot to the ticket counter then walked down on approximately 315 stone steps. On the way down the steps, you reach a stone archway that has been carved out of the rock. You will be instructed to stop, bless yourself with holy water from the pot and continue.




     Before crossing the bridge at the bottom of the valley, you can see the first stone monument on the left side. Another group of stone monument is carved on the left side of the main temple across the river.


     The monuments are shaped in relief on a solid rock hill, commonly called “candi“. They are shaped like burial towers, and identified as the royalties honored here. These burial towers are mostly found all over Central and East Java. There are 4 Queen’s Tombs which are thought to be for King Anak Wungsu’s attendants. These are complimented by 5 Royal Tombs across the narrow river, which are thought to be for the king himself and his 4 favourite wives.






     Across the river is the most interesting part of the complex, the Gunung Kawi temple complex. This area is carved out of the rock and really appears like a pre-historic site rather than a place of worship. Tiny rooms or cells have been created and there is a tiny inner sanctum with a flower offering at its’ entrance. This area is restricted and reserved for the holy men in charge of Gunung Kawi.




     We were fortunate that at the time we visited, the holy man went down the stream to get water and used it to “bless” the different stone images in the temple.  At the same time, light rain showers appeared as if giving us a blessing as well!






    The spirits of the temple blessed us with a thoroughly enjoyable travel across the beautiful island of Bali … there were more surprises for us along the way.






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