Traditionally Gianyar has been the richest district on Bali, today about half the population here works in the tourist industry. Gianyar city is the administrative center of the district, while Ubud is the cultural capital and has the largest population. Gianyar city is located about 23 km from Denpasar, and is a junction for north and east bound traffic. Around Bedulu, between the Petanu and Pakrisan rivers, is a 10 km long belt of land known as “the land between the rivers”.
The mysterious Goa Gajah (elephant cave) is one of the oldest relics on Bali. The exact time of origin is uncertain, but archeologists estimate the cave to have been built around year 1022 AD. This was long before Majapahit entered the island, and also hundreds of years before the first Europeans set foot here.
The site is a mix of Hindu- and Buddhist symbols, among them the cave with the entrance in an artistically carved cliff, a bathing pool with fountains, a statue of the Buddhist goddess Hariti, as well as several other Buddha figures.
Arts on Bali flourished already centuries ago, even before the warring but artistic Balinese kingdoms of the 16th century. Inscriptions say that already around 1000 AD Bali had puppet masters, poetic singers and musicians. These artistic activities and endeavors were further patronized by the feudal lords and sustained by their religious rituals. Economic stability of the people thanks largely to the success of agriculture gave the Balinese plenty of spare time to practice and develop the arts.
Bali is a relatively small island and was an isolated place for centuries, yet it created delicate, advanced and many varieties of dance and drama forms. There are magical dance-dramas where we can feel the magic as well as the atmosphere of the island, holy dances and dramas which can only be performed in the most sacred part of the temple, dances which display ultimate beauty and charm, grand dance-dramas that is performed by more than one hundred dancers as well as dynamic and powerful dances.
In Bali today we can still find the overwhelming variety of traditional arts, from sculpture to painting, from architecture to music, from singing to dancing, and more important is that we can still find those mentioned arts that pervaded and supported by, what the Balinese call, taksu the divine soul of the arts. Painting as known in the West is not a very old art in Bali.
In the old time the Balinese doing more wood or stone carving than painting. They carved temple gates and walls made of soft stone, temple shrines and buildings made of wood, and sculpted overwhelming forms of statues. Wayang or shadow play tradition is also an important source of the modern painting. For wayang characters the artists drew sketches on leather materials before cutting them. Other factor that have an influence to Balinese painting is the creation of religious offerings, when the Balinese constructed delicate art works from bamboo, woods, leaves, rice, flowers and fruits, one form of arts that more or less comparable to installation art today.
Singaraja was once the center of trade on Bali, as well as the capital of the island. Traders from all over Asia have arrived here since the 10th century, trading goods like weapons and opium in change of fresh water, food, cattle and slaves. Singaraja means “lion king”, while there are no lions here, the name is in remembrance of an old palace built in 1604 by the mighty king Raja Panji Sakti.
Gunung Kawi is the largest and maybe also the most impressive of the old monuments on Bali. Like Goa Gajah this site is around 1.000 years old, probably built at the end of the 11th century. Gunung Kawi was first discovered by Europeans in 1920, even if the local population had knowledge of it a long time before that.
This lovely waterfall in the Petanu river is located in Tegenungan close to Kemenuh, 7 km southwest of Gianyar city. The waterfall has a height of about 30 meters. It is not frequently visited in spite of it’s close distance to most of the tourist centers on South Bali. The place can be hard to find on your own, if you arrive from the south drive the main road to Gianyar city, turn right at the “baby monument” (see Gianyar), and then right again in Kemenuh.
This important temple one km north of the Tampaksiring village was founded as early as 962 AD. It is not as spectacular as Gunung Kawi a few km’s away, but absolutely worth a visit. Even if this is one of the oldest sites on Bali much of the structures are relatively new, it was completely restored in 1969. People from all over Bali come here to take a bath in the holy water for good health and good luck. The crystal clear water surfaces in a pool which, according to old traditions, is the Balinese Fountain of Eternal Youth. The pool is therefore protected by a wall. The surfacing water origins from the Batur lake via underground rivers.
Ubud has become the favorite place for many visitors to Bali. The name Ubud is probably derived from “ubad” which means medicine (“obat” in Indonesian), and to come here may be medicine for people who look for a relaxed way of life and beautiful surroundings. Ubud is built on the slopes of the central mountains. In addition to the town Ubud the area also include several smaller villages like Peliatan, Padangtegal, Penestanan, Campuan and Pengosekan.
For most people who visit Bali Yeh Pulu remains a well hidden secret. This may not be a grand attraction, but the site is one of Bali’s oldest and contain some of the most mysterious and important sculptures from it’s time, Yeh Pulu is therefore of great importance to the Balinese. Like the nearby Goa Gajah this was probably an hermitage, not a temple, probably from the 13th century.