Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Elephant Cave Temple -- first day of temple touring

The Elephant Cave Temple was discovered only about 40 years ago. It is down a steep hill and there are carved stone steps to get down there. A couple of farmers were out looking for some metal to make bells and came upon a very large elaborate stone carving. It is about 60 feet wide and 20 feet tall. There is a face carved above the entrance, and a large elephant head carved just to the right of the entrance. There are several smaller carved stone statues of elephants at various places near the entrance, most of which are on stone pedestals.

The farmers explored and found that this was the entrance to a “cave.” No one knows hold old this cave is, who built it, or what purpose it served. It is not a naturally formed cave. It has a tunnel entrance about 6 ½ feet tall, 4 feet wide and 30 feet long. There are alcoves with waist-high deep ledges all along the entrance tunnel. The tunnel meets another similar tunnel, forming a “T.” At the end of the tunnel off the left side of this “T” the tunnel curves around and exits behind the elaborately carved façade. There are waist-high alcoves all along the interior of the cave. Nothing natural about the formation of this cave; it is very obviously man-made. And it is totally black. Don’t know what was used to color the stone black inside the cave.

There is an unusually tall tree in the center of the complex. It is different than any of the other trees in the surrounding jungle. There are also several very large stone platforms in the complex. Today one of these platforms is used for the current temple and several of the platforms are used by the priests for their various ceremonies.

The largest stone platform is used by the gamelan (orchestra) for the temple. The gamelan were leaving just as we arrived near sunset and were carrying their large gong and drums up the steps as we were getting our obligatory sarongs and sashes.

There is a depressed water section of this temple complex where water flows out of carved animal heads on the walls. This is right in front of the very tall unusual tree. Near the bottom of the stone steps down the hillside there is a stone platform where hundreds of old carved stones have been placed and stacked. These stones were excavated from the site and were from the ancient temple. The priests would like to reconstruct the ancient temple, but they have no idea how these stones should fit together.

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