Dream or Reality (29)
The famous cave on Nusa Penida
text and image by Hans Smeekes
“‘Aaaaah, you look really great,’ with this words we were enthusiastically welcomed by the mangku (assistent priest) when we entered the cave.”
“Which cave?” Tu Kodok asks.
Once again we are sitting on our bed in the palace, having a meeting in the night with Tu Kodok, the frog and his friend Tu Tokeh, the gecko.
“The Goa Giri Putri on Nusa Penida, the small magical island, southeast of Bali, we were there for a few days and the visit to the famous cave was one of the highlights,” I answers.
“You dared to make the passage across the sea? Because it is known the Badung Strait can be very tough,” Tu Tokeh reacts worrying.
“Yes, we know that and also the prince warned us about that, but the rainy season (the most difficult period to make the crossing) almost being finished and reassured by the good weather forecast we decided to go. The sea was very calm.”
“It can be very spooky,” Tu Tokeh consists.
“Yes and not only the sea, also the island itself is considered like that, as we understood by the Balinese people,” Fifi says, “our usual driver warned us too and that was the reason he adviced us to go with his friend, born on the island.”
“While driving,” I take over, “along the breathtaking coastline with the Gunung Agung at the other side of the turquoise sea, passing flowering cacti and the white coloured limestone temples, in such a fascinating contrast with the blue sky, he explained us that the main god of Nusa Penida is called Ratu Gede Mecaling, considered as the king of demons. People are afraid of his power. At the same time he is venerated.”
“Typical Bali,” Tu Todok adds, the good and the bad always go together, light and dark. It is about the balance.”
“In fact it was our second visit to the cavetemple,” I continue, “last year I entered from the front, Fifi was not going with me because she considered the small entrance in the rock to difficult for her, it was already a great achievement that she climbed the 131 steep steps to the temple in front of the cave.
The reason that I proposed to visit Goa Giri Putri again, is that we heard afterwards that the cave also could be entered from the backside which is much more easy: not so many steps and the entrance is not a small mouth of 60 centimeters which you can only pass on hands and feet. And moreover: I told Fifi of my great experience inside the cave, because it is majestic and so very female, she must have seen it.
‘You look like the king and queen,’ the priest from behind the iron fence was saying while he was inviting us to come inside, leaving alone the people, sitting on the floor in front of the shrines with Chinese like statues. All his attention was now going to us. So we really felt the king and the queen and the people were looking at us.
‘Have a nice day, Om Swastiastu,’ he said with a big smile showing his shining white teeth, contrasting with his black moustache and small beard, while we were shaking hands. He introduced himself as Mangku Ketut Darma, coordinator of the place, as he called his function. The very enthusiastic Darma invited us to join the ceremony and we got blessed by the holy water.
On my first visit to the impressive cave I had already the feeling to be in the womb. And that was exactly the essence of the explanation by Ketut Darma.
Close to the beautiful statue of the Chinese Goddess Kwan Jin he compared it with being in the belly. From here you are born again and you feel a whole lot better. That’s why people from Bali come to visit the cave. To be born again. He explained it with great enthusiasm. What a man. We already felt better by just talking to him.
He mentioned the name of Majapahit. During the Majapahit Empire period on Jawa a fusion took place between Shiwa and Buddha. And later this cult entered Bali. This relation and connection between Shiwa and Buddha is to be experienced here. He told us that he is teaching the people about that. Shiwa is here in the manifestation of Giri Putri. She is Durga, the consort of Shiwa. Giri means mountain and putri means princess or daughter. And Buddha is here in the manifestation of Kwan Jin (here mentioned as Kwam Im), also female and the Bodhisattva of compassion in Chinese Buddhism.
Pointing to her statue on the shrine Darma explained that Kwan Jin helps the people.
There is also a story about the discovering of the cave.
‘A story told by the grandfathers of the grandfathers,’ he said. People were following a cock, who stopped at the small hole/entrance at the other side.
Darma encouraged us to go deeper inside in the cave. For me that was a déjà vu, for Fifi completely new.
I warned Fifi about the slippery floor. Again I felt how wet it was inside. And dark. Only near the shrines or statues there was light.
Again I had the feeling I was in some kind of a cathedral. One of the statues even reminded me of the Holy Mary in Christianity. Probably due to the blue sky fabric, with which she was clothed. So the fusion was universal.
At my first visit after my crawling through the small entrance I was surprised to see such a big hall. Maybe 40 meters wide and 200 meters long.
In the middle of the giant cave, where people in white clothes were praying before a shrine with statues, I went up to reach a side corridor, by climbing barefeet a narrow iron staircase, which was moving with every step I took. But it was worth it and made my pilgrimage complete at that time, because after some meters carefully following the rock with my hands and trying not to fall down on the very slippery floor, I stood in front of the shrine of Hyang Giri Putri.
Now they made a very beautiful staircase of limestone, with carved nagas on the banisters.
Deeply impresssed by the cave we carefully walked back to the entrance, where we said goodbye to the friendly Darma and walk into the light, feeling like being born again. And on the way back by car everyone along the road in front of the small houses was waving to us. Yes we really felt like the king and the queen.”
“And now you are here in the palace, how appropriate,” Tu Tokeh reacts, lightly smiling, while his friend Tu Kodok is making a wink with his big frog eye, “thank you for your story but now we have to go.”
We are looking at each other: Dream or reality?
On youtube you can find the film about the cave:
On youtube you can find the film about the cave:
Bali: The famous cave on Nusa Penida "GOA GIRI PUTRI" (revisited) by Hans & Fifi