Goa Lawah Temple is one of the most popular Bali Places of Interest, its beautiful sea temple and features a complex built around a cave opening that is inhabited by hordes of bats and its name translates to Bat Cave. This temple was established in the 11th century by Mpu Kuturan, one of early priests who laid the foundations of Hinduism on the island. Goa Lawah is located in the village of Pesinggahan, Dawan district, bordering the Klungkung and Karangasem regencies. This landmark is one of the first stops on tours to Candidasa and further eastern regions within the Karangasem regency.
Goa Lawah Temple is a large complex on the north side of the Jalan Raya Goa Lawah main road, its a stopover for holidaying locals who come in with offerings and do short prayers before continuing with their journey. For general visitors, its an included itinerary on temple tours for photo opportunities together with refreshment breaks at the kiosks across the road on Goa Lawah Beach.
You can see the outline of Nusa Penida Island on the horizon from here, two large banyan trees stand tall at the main entrance of Goa Lawah Temple. Upon entering the temples central courtyard, you will see three bale pavilions in three corners of the complex. These bale are usually where fruit offerings are placed and where gamelan bands play during major ceremonies.
At the centerpiece are age-old shrines which have withstood the hordes of nectar bats (Eonycteris spelaea) chirping in a frenzied din around and behind the shrines at the cave opening. Here is also a Shivaite shrine which has stood for thousands of years, together with a bale adorned with the motifs of Naga Basuki, the mythical dragon who is believed to keep the cosmos at a balance.
Once a place for deep meditation for priests, despite seeming impossible to do so amid the chirping, with the hollow cave opening amplifying the noise. Yet, people believe the constant natural high pitches aided in their focus of thoughts. The tale goes that a prince from the Mengwi kingdom hid away from enemies inside the cave and subsequently followed through, eventually emerging at Besakih Temple on the foot of Mount Agung, which is northeast from this location.
No one has attempted to prove or bring light to this interesting tale. According to the locals and the temple community, the cave leads to three different locations, Mount Agung (Besakih), Talibeng and Tangkid Bangbang. There are various accounts that when Mount Agung erupted in 1963, ash emerged from Goa Lawah Temple. The best time to visit is in the mornings when most of the locals living in the nearby villages come for their daily prayers.
However, afternoons are also pleasant, as the large trees provide a balance of shade to cool the sultry southern beach breezes from across the road. Goa Lawah Temple piodalan or grand temple anniversary takes place every 210 days on the Balinese Pawukon calendar cycle of an Anggara Kasih Medangsia Tuesday, the same anniversary day as Uluwatu Temple.
With its constant flow of pilgrims and visitors, the temple is well managed and maintained, Goa Lawah Temple has undergone a series of renovations around its walls and gates in the outer perimeters over the years. Expect a denser flock of pilgrims up to the Nyepi holiday, when rituals of Melasti take place on the Saka New Year Eve. Long pilgrimages from various temples including Goa Lawah Temple towards the coastlines take place when sacred heirlooms and temple items are blessed near the sea.