Goa Lawah (Bats Cave) - Klungkung
This is a very popular tourist attraction and, as the bats are protected by law, the cave is over run with them. A distinct aroma of bat guano exudes from the cave and the roofs of the temple shrines in front of the cave are liberally coated with bat droppings. Superficially, the temple is small and unimpressive, but it is very old and of great significance to the Balinese as it was founded in 1007 by Empu Kuturan. Goa Lawah Temple is one of the island's nine special Sad Kahyangan Temples, and as such it is the designated holy place to honour the God Maheswara, who resides in this section of the island. Religious processions visit the temple every day, and it is a particular focus for religious rites associated with death.
In front of the cave are small shrines of a Shivaite temple guarding the cave's entrance. This site has been worshipped since around 1000 AD, and was founded by an itinerant holy man, named Resi Markandya (a holy priest from Java).
The cave is also said to lead all the way to Pura Goa in Besakih, some 30 km away, but nobody in recent times has volunteered to confirm this since the fruit bats provide sustenance for the legendary giant snake, Naga Basuki, which is also believed to live in the cave. This ancient reptile is believed to be the caretaker of the earth's equilibrium, a belief which stems from pre-Hindu animism.
In the 17th century the temple was used as a place of worship by the King of Klungkung and the Bat Cave was also used to test the innocence of people found guilty of breaking the law. When within the kingdom of Mengwi , a dispute ensued between two of the king's descendants, I Gusti Ngurah Made Agung and I Gusti Ketut Agung. The latter was not accepted as the descendant of the King of Mengwi, so he agreed to enter the Bat Cave and if he came out alive he would be recognised as a descendant. The cave at that time also housed, as well as bats, big snakes and other wild animals. According to legend I Gusti Ketut Agung accepted the sentence, entered the cave and finally emerged at Besakih.
True to the judgement of the King of Klungkung, he was recognised as a member of the King of Mengwi's family. When he became a King he was known as I Gusti Ketut Agung Besakih. The records also said that as a result of entering the cave he became deaf. The snakes and other wild animals no longer inhabit the cave, but thousands of bats that remain create a unique and popular attraction.