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Ancient Land Between the Rivers

The narrow strip of territory lying between the Petanu and Pakrisan Rivers - extending from Mount Batur in the north to the sea in the south - forms a natural replica of the Hindu-Balinese cosmos. It is no wonder, therefore, that steep ravines, rock riverbeds and cascading streams of this area were the sites of some of the earliest kingdoms and religious settlements on Bali, as evidenced by the great wealth of antiquities found here. The major ones lie along the "Kintamani Tour" route and can be seen in a day, but many more days may easily be devoted to an exploration of the other fascinating sites.

Inscriptions from this area date from the end of the 10th century. In the beginning it was ruled by Hindus and Buddhists - religions probably introduced directly from India. After the end of the 10th century, as the result of a marriage between Balinese Prince Udayana and a Javanese princess, East Javanese cultural influences appeared in Bali, and the language of the inscriptions changed from Old Balinese to Old Javanese. Kings are mentioned in many of these, and there seems to have been a court center located some where in the vicinity of Bedulu or Pejeng.

Myths and legends

Numerous myths are connected with this region. Many concern demonic kings who lost their realms as the result of bad marriages or wicked behavior. Their palaces, battlefields and sacred landscapes are often connected with archaeological sites. Such a king was Maya Danawa. His story is told in the 16th century Kakawin Usana Bali (a poem on the ancient history of Bali). The center of his realm was Balingkang, close to modern-day Teges or Bedulu.

Maya Danawa was in fact the son of goddess Dewi Danu of Lake Batur. He defeated many kings in order to extend his realm and the god of the lake, Batara Danu, granted him a boon - he was allowed to take a Chinese Buddhist wife. She did not feel at home in Bali, however, and soon fell ill. Maya Danawa, went to the sanctuary of Tolangkir to ask for assistance, but the god did not favor someone with a false religion. Maya Danawa was so angry that he forbade the Hindu gods to be venerated, and dictated that he should be worshipped instead.

After some time his Chinese wife died and Maya Danawa remained alone in his palace, enriching himself at the expense of his people. Twelve years later he was defeated by the god Indra, who tapped the ground at Manuk Aya (near Tampaksiring), where upon a magical spring appeared. His warriors drank from it and received great strength. When they killed Maya Danawa, blood spouted from his mouth like a stream of gold becoming the accursed river Petanu. Those who bathed or drank here encountered misery. The gods then bathed in a spring called Air Empul (now Tirta Empul), and from that time onward, the Hindu religion was restored and good kings reigned over Bali.

One of these kings was the ruler of Bedahulu (Bedulu), who was endowed with great magical powers. He used to sit and meditate removing his head to reach the beyond. On one such occasion, an unnatural disturbance occurred and the king was forced to get a new head quickly. A pig happened by, and its head was taken and placed on the neck of the king. Therefore the king's name became Beda-Hulu ("he whose head is severed"). Some versions state that the king's real head fell to earth where Goa Gajah is now.

The king and his courtiers were ashamed of the pig's head, so they constructed a tower for him to live in. His subjects were not allowed to look up, but had to kneel so as not see the king's head. Somehow this became known in Java and the ruler of Majapahit sent his prime minister, Gajah Mada, to Bali to determine if it were true. By means of a ruse (drinking water from a pitcher with a long spout), the visitor managed to discover the king's secret and caused his downfall.

Another story is that of Kebo Iwa, which literally means bull, but was also the title of a court functionary in ancient Bali. Kebo Iwa was a princely giant in some versions, King Bedahulu's minister in others. He scratched rocks with his fingernails, creating many of the rock-cut monuments and relief's found here today - for instance, Goa Garba and Yeh Pulu (see below). In some versions, he was killed when invited to the court of Majapahit.

Goa Gajah

The first major site encountered coming from the south or from Ubud, just 2 km east of the Teges intersection, is the complex known as

Goa Gajah (elephent cave)Goa Gajah the famous "Elephant Cave." It overlooks the Petanu River and consists of a Siwaitic rock-cut cave, a bathing place, a monks' chamber, a number of Buddhist rock cut stupas and statues, and several foundations. It received its name from the archaeologists who discovered it in 1923, because there is a giant head with floppy ears above the entrance, which was at a first glance thought to represent an elephant.

The entrance to the cave itself is 2 m high and 1 m across, with a head sculpted above it that in fact resembles a man with bulging eyes, hair eyebrows, protruding teeth, and a kind of long moustache. He is surrounded by sculpted ornaments in which little creatures men, animals and gruesome heads are depicted. It is as if they refer to a story, but it is not know which tale this could be.

The grotto inside is T-shaped, containing 15 niches hewn out of the cave walls which may have served as benches to sleep on. For this reason, it is thought that the cave once served as a hermitage. A four-armed Ganesa (the elepbria-int-11-headed son of Siwa) and a set of three lingga, each surrounded by eight smaller ones (representing the eight points of the compass and the center), were found at the ends. The cave may date from the second half of the 11th century, There are pavilions to both sides of the entrance, in which ancient statue are placed, One is Hariti, the Buddhist goddess of fertility and protectress of children.

The bathing spot behind the cave consists of three compartments, which were discovered and excavated only in 1954. The central one is small and holy, the left one is for women, and the right one is for men. They are all sunken, flush against a wall, the top of which is level with the courtyard in front of the cave. Each side basin has three statues of women holding urns, from which water pours into them. It seems a statue in the central basin has disappeared.

South of the complex a path leads down to a small stream. On the right are the remains of a hermit's cave with a small pond in front. Past a bridge, the path climbs the opposite slope. The remains of an enormous relief depicting some stupas, once adorning the rock face high above, were found in a ravine on the left. Two meditating Buddhas, probably dating from the 8th century, were found here also. Unfortunately, one was stolen in the late 1980s, and the remaining one is headless. From here a path leads up to the site of Yeh Palu.

Yeh Pulu

Yeh pulu A couple of kms to the east, in the direction of Bedulu just off the main road, are the antiquities of Yeh Pulu, dating from the late 14th century. These consist of relief's cut out of the rock and a sacred well. The relief's are in a animals hanging from a pole, a sitting brahman who holds an offering spoon, sitting women, an ascetic, a man carrying two large pots on a pole over his shoulder, the entrance of a cave or a hut, are among the figures which are depicted. So far, however, nobody knows which story is represented and what is meant by it. Two hundred meters north of Yeh Pulu is another, small bathing place consisting of two basins, with naturalistic relief's of men cut in niches in the rock at the back Southeast of Bedulu, in the village of Kutri, lies the Pura Pedarman temple with its famous 2.20 m high stone statue of the six armed goddess Durga - the spouse of Siwa. She has the outward appearance of a demoness and is killing a demon cursed to take the appearance of a bull. It is said that the statue represents Prince Udayana's Javanese wife the mother of Airlangga. An oral tale says that Udayana was allowed to marry her provided he did not take other wives, however, he did not keep his promise. The princess become very angry and turned to black magic.

The Moon of Pejeng

The area north of Bedulu, around Pejeng and Intaran, contains many antiquities. The most important is the Pura Penataran Sasih which forms part of a group of three temple Sasih means "moon" and refers to the "Moon of Pejeng" a giant bronze kettledrum kept high up in a shrine in the temple. It is decorated with geometric patterns, ogres' heads and stars. According to some stories, it is the ear jewel of Kebo Iwa, others say that it is the chariot wheel of the Moon God which fell in a tree in Pejeng and has been kept in the temple ever since. At first it was bright and shiny, however, a thief tried to steal it and was disturbed by the radiance of the "wheel," so he urinated on the object. As a result, it lost its luster and turned green. The thief was punished for this deed and died immediately.

Bronze kettledrums have been found all over eastern Indonesia, and in Bali other, smaller drums have been found as well. Even a mould has been excavated, which proves that such drums were manufactured on Bali. Kettledrums date from the Bronze Age, but it is difficult to determine how old the Pejeng Moon is. They were symbols of prosperity and fertility, and in eastern Indonesia form Part of the dowry. Apart from the drum, the temple possesses a number of l1th century stone statues, among them a Siwa and lingga.

'Navel of the world'

This area was also once considered the "navel of the world" and there is a temple bearing this name, the Pura Pusering Jagat in Pejeng. It contains several interesting Hindu antiquities, probably dating from the 14th century, which are now placed in shrines.

Two statues, 1.0 m and 0.52 m high, in naturalistic style, are particularly attractive. They each contain four figures. In the taller statue there are dancing demons with bulging eyes, huge teeth and moustaches grouped around a lingga in the center. The smaller one represents four gods, each with four arms holding various attributes, corresponding with the four quarters of the compass. Their heads are surrounded by a nimbus. There is also a shrine with a large lingga.

In a special pavilion, a 0.75 meter-high stone vessel is venerated. It has relief's in a naturalistic style, representing a group of gods and demons holding two snakes wound round a cylindrical mountain with trees. Animals and birds fly around it. This represents a story from the Mahabharata called the "churning of the ocean" in which gods and demons search for the elixir of life. They do so with a tip of a mountain (Mt Mandara, sometimes also Mt Meru). A snake (in Bali two snakes) is used as a rope. In the beginning nothing happens. Then a magic horse with seven heads, an elephant with two pairs of tusks, a beautiful lady and a jewel emerge and, finally, a vessel with the elixir. This story fits well with the usage of the vessel as a container of holy water. It is dated with a chronogram corresponding with A.D. 1329.

Another temple in Pejeng, the Pura Kebo Edan, possesses the statue of a standing giant 3.60 m tall. He is called Kebo Edan, the Mad One. The figure has a huge penis with four "penis pins" pierced through it right under the glens. The use of such pins to increase a woman's sexual pleasure is an old custom known throughout Southeast Asia. The giant stands in a dancing position and tramples a human figure, its face covered with something that may be a mask, as it is tied with ribbons at the back. The figure may represent a demonic manifestation of Siwa as a dancer. There is another statue representing a fat, crouching demon holding a big skull upside down in front of his chest. The demon is wearing a diadem decorated with small skulls on his curly hair. The style of these statues points to the 13th-14th century.

While in the Pejeng area, stop in also at the Archaeological Museum, located just two km north of Bedulu on the main road. Here are displayed quite a number of stone sarcophagi, Neolithic axe heads, bronze jewelry and figurines and Chinese ceramics.

Rock-cut caves

Goa Garba lies northeast of Pejeng, on the western side of the Pakrisan. The complex can be entered via steep steps through a gateway at the back of the Pengukur-ukuran temple in the village of Sawah Gunung. One arrives at a hermitage consisting of three caves with slanting roofs. There is an inscription in Kadiri square script in one of these saying "sri" a lucky sign. On the basis of the script, the complex may be dated to the late 11th century. Water basins with spouts are hewn in front of the niches. There are several pedestals with fragments of stone statues and lingga. In the temple above, two stone Ganesas, a lingga and a winged stone snake with an inscription dated AD. 1194 are found

Krobokan, on the eastern side of the Pakrisan (near the village of Cernadik), dates from the 12th century. Where the waters of the rivers Krobokan and Pakrisan flow together, a 6 m high, oval-shaped niche with the facade of a temple in relief is cut into the rock. It is flanked by a small hermit's cave with a rectangular aperture and a slanting roof.

Mountain of the poet

Gunung KawiFrom Pejeng, the road begins a slow but steady ascent of Mt Batur. About halfway to the top, just near the source of the Pakrisan River, are two sites of great antiquity. The first, near Tampaksiring, is a famous complex of rock-cut monuments dating from the late 11th century and known as Gunung Kawi the "mountain of the poet." The poet in this case is none other than the god Siwa. In the ravines, on both sides of the river, royal tombs, a hermitage and monks' caves have been cut out of solid rock. The main entrance to the site can be reached via a steep footpath that begins by a large parking lot lined with souvenir stalls on the east side of the road.

As one enters the site, to the left is a rock cut monument consisting of four facades suggesting the shape of temples. Each is surrounded by an oval-shaped niche about 7 m high. The reliefs are covered with a kind of plaster. On the other side of the ravine are five niches with similar rock-cut facades. In the bases of all these, holes have been made which once contained little stone boxes divided into nine squares, corresponding to the eight quarters of the compass and the center.

The monuments are connected with the youngest son of the powerful East Javanese King Airlangga who lived in the first half of the 11th century, and was of Balinese descent via his father Udayana. Twenty-seven edicts are known to have been issued by him between A.D. 1050 and 1078. The central monument of the five may be devoted to him, because there is an inscription in Kadiri square script at the top reading: "the king monumentalized in Jalu." By Jalu, the name of the site may be meant.

Next to the monuments is a rock-cut monastery complex, consisting of several caves with a freestanding building hewn out of the rock in the center. Characteristics are the large, rectangular apertures and oval shaped entrances, with overhanging roofs, now overgrown with grass. On the other side of the ravine, to the right of the entrance, another cave has been discovered.

The sacred spring

Tirtha EmpulIn an inscription dated A.D. 960 discovered in Pura Sakenan temple in the village of Manuk Aya, mention is made of a double pool dug around a well near the source of the river Pakrisan. The king transformed this into a holy bathing place, called Air Ampul. This is the present-day Tirta Empul - one of the most sacred spots on Bali. It lies just north of Tampaksiring along a well-marked road.

The sanctuary consists of an outer courtyard with a basin for public use and a central courtyard with two adjacent, rectangular pools (for those who fought Maya Danawa and were cleansed by the God Indra) containing clear, transparent water - all surrounded by a low wall of recent construction. There are 15 spouts in these pools. The inner court has two pavilions, one of which is for the god Indra (Maya Danawa's adversary), and more than 20 small shrines with newly-carved and freshly-painted wooden doors decorated with relief's. Among these is one devoted to the rice goddess (Dewi Sri), one to the Lord of Majapahit, and one to Mt Batur.

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