Maya Denawa cave, Goa Maya Denawa

Written by on July 3, 2012 in Bali Cave with 0 Comments



Throughout the centuries caves on Bali have been used by yogis, hermits, shamans, sages, priests, and royalty to meditate, pray and to be spiritually reborn. Ketut Sunarta says that he meditates everyday for one hour inside of Goa Maya. “You stay there for one hour, sealed in the darkness, listening to your own breath and the spirits begin to speak to you.” There are many caves on Bali. In this two part article we will explore Goa Maya in Bayad, Goa Lawah in Kusamba, Goa Gajah in Bedulu, Goa Giri Putri on Nusa Penida, and Silyuti in Padangbai. Ketut is the general manager of Bali Eco Adventure Resort. Goa Maya is located on the land that the resort, Bayad community and the surrounding rice farmers cooperatively steward. The cave, near the Petanu River 15km north of Ubud, is at the center of a serpentine matrix of tunnels originally dug as irrigation canals. Three years ago, Peter Studer the Swiss proprietor of Bali Eco Adventure Resort, rediscovered Goa Maya when he and Ketut arrived at a crevice shaped opening in the mountain. Peter asked Ketut, who grew up in a nearby village, if this was the opening to the ‘dangerous’ cave he had been hearing about. The cave had a reputation for being dangerous because it and the network of irrigation tunnels served as hide outs for the Balinese during the Dutch, Japanese and Communist occupations. Ketut warned Peter not to go into the cave at which point Peter promptly slipped through the crevice and into the mountain. Peter crawled on his hands and knees, along with spiders, snakes and squeaking bats until he came into the perfectly round room that is Goa Maya. He called for Ketut to follow. Reluctantly, Ketut crawled in. “I was afraid, but I went inside. The moment I arrived at Goa Maya I began to remember the stories my grandparents told me about the history of the cave.” In the 11th century the kingdom of Bedulu was ruled by an evil king, Maya Denawa. His subjects grew weary of oppression and called up Indra-the lord of heaven and of goodness-and Siwa-the godhead and the god of immortality-to help overthrow Maya Denawa. Their prayers were answered, the king was killed and his blood flowed into the Petanu River. No one wants to drink bloody water and the people needed to find a fresh water source for ingestion and irrigation. A spring was discovered flowing from a mountain into the river. Ida Pedanda Griya Sakh Manawatla, a priest, was walking along the Petanu River when the men were digging irrigation tunnels. Ida instantly experienced a profound power from the mountain and commanded the diggers to dig into the center of the mountain. It was here that the men carved a sacred space that the priest named Goa Maya: The Hidden Cave. Today the original crevice is still the entry point. It is very narrow, yet opens up into a tunnel. Bali Eco Adventure Resort and the community of Bayad expanded the tunnels to allow for ease in walking the 1000 meter serpentine path into Goa Maya. Flashlights are provided, as the tunnels are pitch black. A few bats hang out, yet there is a noticeable absence of spiders and snakes. Daily, locals feed the spirits of the tunnels and the Hidden Cave with offerings. Full moon ceremonies are celebrated in this sacred chamber that comfortably sits ten people. The moment I entered Goa Maya I felt my heart open. As I circled around the temple to look at the sandstone statues of Siwa, Indra and Maya Denawa (all carved by Ketut) I began to comprehend my heart opening: The presence of Maya Denawa, the evil king. The Balinese honor the light with the dark. Evil, or those rejected parts of us that have separated from the light of our Being simply exists. The dark is not separate; rather the light is contained within the dark. This is one reason why for centuries caves have been revered as sacred spaces in many cultures. Encased in complete darkness, embraced by the earth a yogi is able to safely face hidden fears to be reborn into en-lightened Awareness. When fears fall away the heart opens and our ‘little light inside’ shines forth. Goa Lawah or ‘Bat Cave’ is revered by the Balinese as a temple that personifies the transformative power of a cave. The Balinese believe Goa Lawah is a vehicle to transport a deceased family member’s soul into deification. The cave, located near the beach south of Padangbai, was discovered by a wandering Javanese sage, Mpu Kuturan. He is also credited with developing the temple complex around the cave. The cave is the home of thousands of tiny fruit bats. In many cultures the bat is recognized as a symbol of death into rebirth. Bats indicate it is time to face fears and to die to what no longer serves us and be reborn into a new identity. In the United States I visited a 2km long cave that was all about bats. The National Park department stewards their cave home, closing the cave during mating season and only allowing a few visitors inside of the cave the remaining time. They want to ensure the survival of this particular species of bat and preserve the natural growth of the cave. From that cave I surmised that bats need to live in an enclosed, dark place. Goa Lawah deleted this summation. Goa Lawah is a shallow cave, with the bats clinging to the rock that forms the open face of the cave. A fence stands in front of it and visitors are allowed to view the bats as if they are in a zoo. It is forbidden to actually enter into the cave, thus ensuring the preservation and sacred, natural interdependent relationship of the cave with the bats. The entire cave face is plastered with bats happily hanging upside down. Some bats are sleeping, others are rapturously copulating and many seem to be chatting about the coming night’s hunt. The ancient Balinese Lontar (scripture) Babad Dalem states that Goa Lawah is a potent place for purification and spiritual awakening because of its location with the mountains, the sea…and of course the spiritual guidance of the bats. Goa Lawah invites us to contemplate the awareness of the cycle of death and rebirth in our own lives. Goa Gaja is an animal of a different size. This cave near Ubud in the village of Bedulu is known as Elephant Cave, although it looks nothing like an elephant. The origins of its name are not known. In the rock that is the face of the cave is carved a delightfully looking demonic face. Its large eyes are looking west, to the demon’s right. Underneath the ‘cheek’ are five thick fingers. Goa Gaja is an ancient site and designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995. The statue of the primordial earth mother of Tibet, known in Mahayana Buddhism as Harati Ajima resides near the cave to ensure abundance and protection. This and other relics date back to the 8th century. Records also show that Goa Gaja was used by a Buddhist hermit in the 900’s. I ascertain its elephant nature derives from the shape of the cave: We enter through a short, tunnel…the trunk of the elephant. The trunk opens up into a small rectangular room-the body of the elephant. Although Goa Gaja is now a popular attraction for busses to deposit tourists, this ancient site retains a profound, sacred power. The cave contains a shrine with Ganesha, three black Siwa lingams and a middle shrine whose details have eroded back into the stone from which it is carved. Six rectangle shaped meditation chambers line the cave. I lift myself up into one of the chambers and notice that the edge is smooth and round, indicating a number of people have lifted themselves up to sit in this meditation chamber throughout the years. I drop into meditation as tourists continue to travel through the body of the elephant. The average length of stay: Enough time to see…smile…snap! When the cave is empty of travelers I observe its natural allowing nature. This sacred chamber seemingly refuses to retain the energetic imprints of the tourists and myself. Its presence is truly open and accommodating to all that arrive. Walking beyond the bathing pool, the waterfalls and the Balinese temple the trail arrives at a second cave. The mouth of this cave is wide with a narrow tunnel leading into the mountain. The tunnel is too narrow for a human body to pass. In the front of the cave sits a natural shaped Siwa lingam (divine masculine) stone set into a yoni (divine feminine) composed of a circle of rocks. In front of this sits a barely recognizable statue of an ancient yogi. Few tourists stop at this cave and I take the opportunity to retreat as far back into the tunnel as possible to meditate. The energy joyfully dances around me, rushing in from the back of the tunnel. Although the space is tightly closed, a feeling of spaciousness surrounds me. I feel a presence next to me and open my eyes to see only the statue and cave opening. The photographs taken from this vantage point are populated with pure white orbs. Many people say these orbs are the presence of the spirits of the cave. The sacred caves of Bali invite us into the spirit of adventure and to explore our awareness of the Spirit in matter. Om Swastyastu To experience Goa Maya contact: Bali Eco Adventure and Resort: To contact the writer: [email protected]


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