Gunung Kawi, the Mountain of the Poets

high-definition creative commons photographs from Gunung Kawi, Gyanyar, Bali together with further information.


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Gunung Kawi

(The Mountain of the Poets)

Deep into one of the Pakerisan rivers gorges, the monumental Gunung Kawi has three complexes carved out of the cliffs. It appears to have been completed in 1080. The first two are on either side of the river itself, and consist of four and five memorial monuments in rows. There are also numerous meditation-type caves, which are cut into the side of the cliffs; and in a more remote area is another monument and set of caves known as the 10th memorial. Exactly why it is known as the Mountain of the Poets is not clear, as these appear to be memorials for a king and his wives.

The Group of Four Memorials

The first set of four memorials are temple-relief like carvings framed within 7-metre high niches. There is a courtyard and a single set of steps to approach the reliefs (but entry is forbidden). On either side are caves carved out of the stone. There is also a bale (pavilion) where offerings can be prepared. They probably are memorials for consorts of the king.

The Group of Five Memorials

After crossing the small but gushing Pakerisan river there is a very similar grouping, but this time with five temple-reliefs. These probably memorialise a king and his four principal wives. The belief is, though it is hard to prove, that the king was Anak Wungsu. On one of the temples there is a still readable inscription from the tenth century, written in a highly stylised form of the Bali script (Kadri Quadrate script).

The Remote Caves

In a much more remote area are what look like meditation caves. It is also possible they were dwellings for priests and for pilgrims visiting the site. They are numerous, and along one of the paths a waterfall runs straight through the path. There are also many Tirthas (Pools of Purification) dotted around.

The Tenth Memorial

Quite some distance away from the main complex there is a road leading to what is known as the tenth memorial, apparently built in honour of a prime minister. The site is in many ways similar to the others, but has just one temple-relief, together with caves and a small temple.


This site is around 15km from Gunung Kawi, and seems to have been projected as a similar type of memorial site. Unfortunately though it was never completed, probably owing to an earthquake. The site is accessed down a deep ravive along the Pakerisan river. It is not easy to access owing the slippy rocks that one needs to cross to get to the main area.

Photographing Gunung Kawi

Photographing Gunung Kawi, Photograph by Vonny Salazar



Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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