Posted by: tourtaxiubud | March 20, 2009

Indonesia, Bali, PURA GUNUNG KAWI

Pura Gunung Kawi




A turnoff to the east of the mainroad in Tampaksiring village leads to the Gunung Kawi, (the ‘mountain of the poets’) and its Royal Tombs. More conspicious than any neighboring mountain the name might refer to is the Pakerisan valley, one of Bali’s most beautiful landscapes. The first view of the area comes from a steep footpath descending into a sunken passage and a fortress-like gateway, both cut from the solid rock. Solid rock is the one and only material used for shaping Gunung Kawi’s rock-cut candis, cloisters and niches, effectively enclosed by the ravine’s walls.




The Gunung Kawi complex consist of two rows of rock-cut candis. It has one row of four directly to the left after the gateway and one of five on the opposite riverside. South-east of the four is a cloister (patapan) consisting of courtyards, rooms and niches, likewise cut from the rock. Its inmates must have been the religious people who cared for the candis. The cloister was apparently not roomy enough , for at some distance are rows of niches and a second cloister. These are more simply conceived than the first, consisting of a rectangular courtyard, niches and a central platform. Still farther away, on the opposite side of the river, is one more rock-cut candi, the so-called “Tenth Tomb”  This additional candi as well as the first and the third group, have alcove niches in their immidiate neighborhood, either for ‘hermits in charge’ or pilgims from afar.




The rock-cut candis consist of temple façades hewn in relief from the rock and framed by a seven-meter-high nice deep enough to provide effective protection for the monumental carving. Just as with other Balinese carvings, the reliefs have been covered  with a protective plaster layer. The candis in either group are on a commun base, reached by a staircase. There are courtyards in front for festivities; their shorter sides have niches. There are also niches on either side of the carved gateway.


The group of five candis on the river’s northern side is apparently the more important. One of the candis  -the one at the left end- is placed higher than the others, seperated from them by a vertical band on the common base.


Each of the monumental reliefs represents a complete candi or prasanda seen en face; the roof consists of superimposed rows of turrets shaped like linggas on yoni pedestals. The arrangement is similar to the superstructures of candis in both Central and East Java, yet it is different because the Balinese turrets differ in shape as well as arrangement (in central Java they are treated as separate elements; in East Java inserted in ornamental bands; in Bali something in between, and differently shaped) The doors of the candis are sham, indicated in relief. There is, however, one exception to the principle of mere suggestion. In front of the sham door a small platform is left free. At its center is an excavation, slanting into the interior of the candi’s base. It appears that each of the said pits contained a quadrangular stone slab with nine partitions originally containing various minerals and metal objects. These represented the deseased’s spiritual being as well as the differend aspects of the Universe. When the candis were discovered in 1920, the stone slabs had already been removed from their hiding places. Now they are kept in one of the nearby cloister rooms. One is still in situ, and can bee seen on the platform close to the slanting pit.




Since they did not contain ashes or bones, the ninefold devided stones cannot be properly called cinerary urns. Funerary remains were presumably thrown into the sea, or a river emptying into it, as is nowadays done. The candis were not intended as ‘tombs’ or ‘mausolea’ to contain the remains of the dead, yet they were connected with dead, liberation, and potential resurrection of certain outstanding personages, such as a king. They were made for the spiritual aspects of his personality; acting as ‘monumental documents’, they stated the fact of his delivery after cremation, and acted as an architectural ‘new body’ and temporary dwelling place to which the deceased could later return if desired.




The Gunung Kawi candis have no statues representing deceased king in his devine state (as seems to be the case with the Kalebutan candi), yet written notices indicate for whom the candis were made. Over the sham door of each of them are short inscriptions written in a highly decorative script , called ‘figurative’, ‘square’, or ‘Kadiri Quadrate’ characters, since it was used during the East Javanese Kadiri period for about one century after its first appearance in A.D. 977. It was usually reserved, as here, for concise monumental inscriptions. Unfortunately, most of the characters can no longer be deciphered. Those on the south bank are unreadeble; four on the northern side read rwa – – (da) kira, which makes no sense. The inscription on the remaining and principal candi provides no difficulties. It reads haji lumah ing Jalu, i.e. ‘the king who was ‘monumetalized’ at Jalu’

Jalu might be this very place, the word meaning ‘a cock’s spur’ which is thought synonymous with keris (dagger). The Pakerisan, the “Keris River”, thus might be another name for Jalu. (Jalu as an element of personal titles -such as Udayana’s- is a different word meaning ‘male’) Personal names constructed with lumahare posthumously conferred, mainly on royal personages; they are determined by the place where a memorial (candi) was founded for them. The king of the inscription is taken to be Anak Wungsu, whose inscriptions cover the period A.D. 1050 – 1077.


Scanty data concerning the purpose of the candis make it hard to say for whom they were founded. Stutterheim’s suggestions are tentatively accepted: Anak Wungsu’s four principal consorts were probably given their candis here after they had sacrificed themselves to follow their deseased spouse. The apparently identical inscriptions point to identical relations with the king. (on the other hand, a first lady might reasonably be expected, as seen in certain portret statues showing a king and a queen. One of them -in the nearby Tampaksiring Pura Penataran- is even supposed to represent Anak Wungsu and his principal consort.) The four candis on the river’s opposite side may refer to four concubines or spouses of lower standing. The isolated “Tenth Tomb” is locally called “the priest’s house” (gria pedanda), which is inconsistent with thw title rakriyan over the door. “A prime minister who died some time after his lord’s death “ has been proposed instead.




Visits to sacred sites helped one to acquire thr spiritual assistance and power neccesary for continued successful life. There was also another method for the distribution of health and fertility expected from the magic powers concentrated in these sanctuaries: flowing water. Flowing water is living water, generating life wherever it is needed. A candi might be effectively placed near a river, which conveys its miraculous power to whatever values may be represented by yhe sites sacredness. Conversely, the passing stream may also derive strength from the candi, to spread it over the surrounding fields and transmit to its bathers. With the Gunung Kawi candis, there is a gutter above the series of five, belonging to the king and queen. The water is carried -if required, the channel can also be closed- to another channel in front of the monuments, provided with spouts ( a naga gargoyle for the king’s candi, a plain spout for the others) Again, it is led to a watering place between the river and the candis; people bathing there benefited from the wholesome influence of the mighty deceased. Water taken away was activated by the same reviving power ensuring successful crops.


The main cloister situated next to the five principal candis is also hewn out of solid rock. It is entered by a gateway and a portal which could formerly be closed with a wooden door. Inside are two partitions, seperated by a small courtyard. There is anoter enclosure to the left with two rooms opening onto it; one of the rooms has windows and a ceiling opening. The center has a dais with seats around it, all of them carved out of rock. This might have been a refectory or assembly room.


The cloister’s right side consists of another courtyard. A large stone block, shaped like a house with niches in its outer walls, stands in the center. Cells for the inmates have likewise been cut from the rocks on all sides. Each excavation comprises two small rooms, probably one for daytime use, one for sleeping. An opening in the southeastern corner leads to a row of outside niches.


The entire complex was known to the Tampaksiring people long before Resident H.T. Damsté made its existence widely known in 1920. Soon after its discovery the Archeological Service further examined and described it. A few years later Nieuwenkamp discovered the ‘Thenth Tomb’. In 1949 the restauration of one of the cloiser’s niches had started. A study of the neighborhood led to the discovery of a second cloister hitherto covered up and unknown, situated at the end of a row of hermit’s niches to the east of the first monastery, opposite the ‘Tenth Tomb’. In type it resembles certain monasteries discovered elsewhere (in connection with the Kalebutan candi) There is a courtyard surrounded by niches and a central platform. This new discovery underlined the importance of the Gunung Kawi site. The second monastery can be clearly seen at the valley’s southeastern end, even from the beginning of the footpath leading down from Tampaksiring.


The ‘Tenth Tomb’ can be reached by a path through the paddyfields and along the rocks, starting from the rock-cut gateway leading into the ravine. On the way one passes a smaller gateway likewise hewn from the rock. To the left from the ‘Tenth Tomb’ and adjacentniches are more alcoves behind another gateway.


Before leaving the vilage of Tampaksiring, one may take a path to the right which leads to the Pura Penataran Sarasigi. There is a statue here (height 93 cm) which Stutterheim believed to be king Anak Wungsu and his principal queen.



  1. thanks a lot for the article..

    this article is help me to finish my homework

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