Posted by: tourtaxiubud | April 8, 2009

YEH PULU

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In Bedulu, close to Goa Gajah, another rock with many large carvings was discovered in the same period around 1925.
This turned out to be Toya Pulu, usually called Yeh Pulu.It had previously been discovered by the punggawa (head of the district) of Ubud. In 1925 the site was provisionally investigated by the Archaological Service.

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The Yeh Pulu reliefs referred to as ‘wayang figures’, are carved into a rock wall bordering paddy fields between the rivers Petanu and Jurang, between two roads leading to Bedulu. The best way to get there is via a small road leading of the main Goa Gajah – Bedulu connection. The border of the paddy fields can be reached by car; after that, one has to walk over a small path. A guide will be necessary; any child will be able to point out the way.

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The reliefs have always been endangered by water streaming down from the sawahs immediately above the rock wall. In 1937 the paddy fields were purchased  and put out of use, though this had no tangible effect. In 1949 a cemented stone gutter was made atop the carved rock wall to drain off any moisture causing erosion and vegetation . Simultaniously, the lower part of the reliefs was brought to light.
The rock wall’s sculptured surface measures approximately 25 meters, with an everage height of around 2 meters. The reliefs were originally plastered over, but most of this cover has dissapeared. At thr southern end is an excavation 6.5 meters long. It is devided by pillars into 3 partitions. Either it was the hermit’s task to care for the reliefs, or the reliefs were there as an addition to the hermit’s simple abode. In any case, we notice again the importance in Bali of hermits and ascetics.

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Although damaged by moisture and vegetation, the reliefs are comparatively well-preserved. Big and vigorously modeled, the carved figures show clearly. Even so, their identification has proved difficult, and so far does not cover all details.

The carvings start with a horseshoe arch filled with stylized leaves; leaves cover the reliefs as a background and frame, often shaped with much fantasy and technical skill. ( This entry decoration recalls the gunungan or kekayon, a leaf-shaped theatrical prop used in shadow plays to indicate location: the fairy world of woods and mountains where the heroes and heroines go in search of adventures.) Among the leaves the vague traces of a seated figure can be seen.

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The figures in the reliefs emerge clearly from the background, with niche-like excavations carved around all of them. Beginning the series is a standing man, his arm raised in a guesture which might be mistaken for a salute. It actually is one of the conventional ways of representing the divine hero Krshna (one of Vishnu’s incarnations). Young Krshna, as a shepherd’s boy, has offended the god Indra, who threatens to destroy Krshna and his friends with floods of rain and a thunderstorm. To protect his playmates, Krshna uproots Mount Govardhana to use as an umbrella. This demonstration of miraculous power, indicated by Krshna’s standing with one hand raised, is occasionally used as a leitmotiv for Krshna’s presence.

There is a curved line running from Krshna;s raised hand all along his body to his left foot. This line might indicate the mountain’s lower border, or may merely separate the standing figure from the rock, as is done elsewhere in the series.

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The remaining reliefs can be divided into five scenes, apparently illustrating a continuous story from left to right:

  1. A man (clad the same as the tanding figure) shoulders a carrying pole (pikulan) with two vessels possibly containing palm wine (tuwak). He walks behind a woman of a higher social class (as evidenced by her walking in front, and being covered wit trinkets) This part of the scene is separated from the wall above by a slanting line sharply cut into the rock. Above, partially covering this groove, there is a minor scene of a man hunting a boar. Engraved in a very different style, it is apparently a later addition. The woman and her companion move towards a profusely decorated hut. The double door is partly open, and an old woman stands in the opening.
  2. An old woman sits in a cave, legs folded. Three monkeys play. To the left a man stands with a hoe (pacul) on his shoulder, a woman to the right. The old woman faces the man, from whom she accepts something. Behind the man crouches a dwarf-like person, his chin resting on his folded hands. He has an astetic’s turban ( the prototype of a present-day pedanda’s crown) This attribute he shares with recent pictures of the Tantric priest Bharada, famous from Balinese history. Bharada is supposedly the prototype of Merdah, a clownish page (punakawan) in heroic tales. The ascetic dwarf may have played an attendant’s role. To the scene’s extreme right is a heavy-set creature kneeling on one knee. He holds a ladle, and wears a heavy neck ornament. There is a square whole in his belly. Brows, eyes and fangs are definitely demonic. There may be some connection between the contents of 1 and 2, but what exactly?

The scene within a strictly rectangular frame is separated from 3 by a flat strip. There may have been a gateway at right angles to the rock. The lower part of the fragment was excavated about 1950: a man lying in the grip of an elephant’s trunk.

  1. Another scene in the woods, flourishing leaves all over. A man, curly hair, left hand outstreched, sits on a richly caparisoned horse. Another man stands in a fighting pose, left hand outstreched (magically) threatening; in his right hand is a curved cleaver (kudi) He attacks a bear which is already involved in a fight with another man who holds a peculiar weapon vertically in the bear’s mouth. The man can hardly remain erect. The bear is attacked from behind by a fourth hunter. For some reason a face is carved to either side of the bear’s head, and again behind the fourth man: still more hunters? In the upper right-hand corner, a man and a woman, one offering a jar to the other.

Javanese and Balinese heroes and heroines are often accompanied in plastic arts and theater by comical personages who amusingly parody their master’s exploits. In the right lower corner the hunting scene is parodied by a heroic frog swinging a short sword and sticking a double-pointed weapon into a large snake’s mouth. Perhaps funny to the onlooker, but a matter of life or death for the valiant frog!

  1. Two men carry away two bears on a long pole.
  2. A woman holds the tail of a rider’s horse (either to move speedily, as is done in mountainious country, or to detain the man on horseback) Are the two monkeys at the woman’s back chasing each other, perhaps parodying her actions?

 

The end of the series is marked by a two-armed Ganesha.

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The Yeh Pulu reliefs are distinct from any reliefs we know from ancient Java and Bali. Working on a rock-wall instead of framed panels, the sculptor used a unique style and working process. The figures are astonishingly realistic and vigorous; high relief suggest figures in the round. It is difficult to attach any specific date to sculptures of such a deviating type and style. Because of certain details (the curved leaves filling the open spaces, the woman’s flat headdress, etc.) the 14th or 15th century was suggested, corresponding with the heyday and beginning decline of Majapahit.

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