Gunung Kawi

From the lookout above a long stairway, ghostly habitations appear on the far side of the valley. The young River Pakrisan bubbles down over boulders, as it winds through the rice terraces. This is the striking setting of Gunung Kawi, a complex of rock-hewn candis and monks' cells.

Legend has it that the gigantic strongman Kebo lwa carved out all the monuments one night with his fingernails. Remarkably preserved in their deep niches over 7 meters high, they are only facades without interior chambers. There are ten in all-the main group of five east of the river, a group of four west of the river, and one by itself at the southern end of the valley.

Each has a complex of monks' cells nearby. The candis however were not places of burial, but served as memorials to deified royalty. Short inscriptions on some of the candis have enabled archaeologists to attribute them to the end of the 11th century, soon after the death of Anak Wungsu in about 1077. But the identity of the kings and royal spouses honored there has not been determined with certainty.

One theory says the main group of five candis honored Udayana, his queen, his concubine, and his two sons, Marakata and Anak Wungsu. Another theory suggests they honored Anak Wungsu and his royal wives; The group of four candis is thought to enshrine Anak Wungsu's concubines. The tenth candi honors a high state official.

Perhaps Anak Wungsu ordered the Gunung Kawi monuments sculpted at a place where he himself used to meditate. Similar though smaller rock-hewn candis and monks' cells have been discovered in other parts of this central heartland of the Pejeng kffigdom, several of them also on the River Pakrisan. By the suspension bridge at Campuan, Ubud, are a couple of cells.


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