Blood Trail in Kebo Edan Temple

Kebo Edan Temple, an ancient place, but preserves a lot of knowledge
In order to collect some data for my visual novel, Revival of Queen Leyak, I flew to Bali Island from Surabaya. The main destination was Gianyar, a center of ancient kingdoms in Bali, Indonesia. The one that appealed to me was Kebo Edan Temple, or local people called it Pura Kebo Edan. A lot of precious archaeological relict you can find there, as a link to answer some questions about Hindu Kingdoms in Indonesia.

I was so curious about that temple. So once I landed to the Ngurah Rai International Airport that morning, I didn’t go to my hotel. Instead, I asked my driver to drive me to Tampaksiring Region right away.

Visiting Kebo Edan Temple

The entrance gate of Kebo Edan Temple

Kebo Edan Temple is located in the border of Bedulu Village. It’s about 7 kilometers from Gianyar City and 27 kilometers from Denpasar City. I had no difficulty to find this national cultural heritage, because the location is only meters away from the highway.

Stepped out from the car, I went to a guard post. It was empty. No one was there. I just saw a foreigner tourist with his SLR camera at the temple. He walked closer to the post not long after I came to put back a batik skirt on the table. So, I officially became the only tourist here. Fine.

Since the beginning I already know, Kebo Edan Temple is not a popular tourism site. If you don’t have special or niche interest like I did, better you look for beautiful beaches, luxurious villa, or entertaining shows in Bali.

“Want to look around the temple, Bli?” a middle-aged woman greeted me.

“Err… yeah. Of course,” I replied.

She opened her guest book and asked me to fill it. After I completed the form and give some voluntary rupiahs (a contribution to help the temple’s maintenance), she gave me a fabric belt, which I should wear to honor this worshiping place.

What’s in Kebo Edan Temple

Kebo Edan Temple is an official National Cultural Heritage in Indonesia

Like any other Hindu worshiping places in Bali, Kebo Edan Temple has three parts (tri mandala):

  1. Nista Mandala / Jaba Pisan. The outer part of temple’s architecture that’s considered unholy and profane. Everyone can enter it. People used to trade here. But the merchants are getting fewer and fewer these days.
  2. Madya Mandala / Jaba Tengah. In this sacred part, Hindus people should have to start to focus on their pray here. Although there’s still some slack. In 1970-1980s, there were some stages of barongs, kris dances, etc. Unfortunately, since the visitors have continuously decreased, the shows have been stopped.
  3. Utama Mandala / Jeroan. This is the deepest and holiest part of Kebo Edan Temple. People has to be there only to worship Sang Hyang Widhi (or the Brahman/God in Hindu).

At southern site, I saw a row of ancient statues, which placed on some pelinggih (a small pagoda-like building).

The nearest zone to entrance door, in the west, right in front of the old frangipani tree, it’s Pelinggih Bhatara Kebo Edan or Pelinggih Ratu Kebo. One of its statues is a buffalo water with bell necklace.

Pelinggih Bathara Ratu Kebo

On its side, still in the same pelinggih, a giant statue sit supporting a cup of blood with skull accessories. Are they actually Shiva (one of the mighty gods according to Hinduism) and Nandi (Shiva’s vahana)? Or are they Durga (Shiva’s wife) and Mahishasura (buffalo’s monster whom she killed)?

I didn’t have a chance to confirm that since there was nobody around the temple. But one thing is sure, at the side of this pelinggih, I found what I’d been looking for to my story plot research.

Bhatara Shiva Bhairava Statue

Main Statue: Shiva Bhairava or Bima Bhairava

Some called it the statue of Ratu Sakti, Ratu Balian, or Bhairava Bima Sakti. Whatever the names, this 3.6 meters height statue is the main attraction of Kebo Edan Temple.

Unfortunately, the statue wasn’t as fine as I had imagined. Though the Sanctuary Department of Ancients in Bali in 1952 restored it, the pose and the allure of this bhairava statue is still vague.

The best I could describe about this “Balinese” Shiva is, he is standing with hands on hips, his curly hair hang down, his face is blurry because (some said) he wears a mask. Some snakes coil around his hands and legs. Yes, the snake is one of the traits of bhairavas (god who shows his/her dark side, mighty, and superpower).

When I came, as you can see on the photo, there was a poleng (chess-like fabric) covering the Shiva’s hips. But in reality, under that poleng, the statue has phallus and a hole beside.

And as that wasn’t creepy enough, I dare you to get rid of that ritual offering table.

You’ll see that this statue is standing on some corpses. Of course those dead bodies are also in the form of statue. But maybe you think what I think. I mean, “What?! What on earth this supposes to mean?”

Some corpse under Shiva Bhairava's feet

This was a (human) sacrificial rite, which tantric or Bhairavas worshiper kings used to perform. The sect was from India, then spread to others South Asian kingdoms, East Asia, and finally South-east Asia, including Indonesia. Yes, there are blood trails if you trace this interesting history.

From the statues found, we can identified there were, at least, three Bhairava sects:

  • Bhairava Kala (Hala) Cakra. It’s a mix of Buddha Mahayana and Tantrayana. This way of life was followed by Kertanegara (successful king of Singosari Kingdom) and Adityawarman (successful king of Melayu Kingdom, formerly a high rank leaders in Majapahit Kingdom). Statue of Bhairava Adityawarman is preserved in National Museum Jakarta, and Bhairawa Kertanegara from Singosari Temple is now in Tropen Museum Leiden (but you can see its replica in National Museum Jakarta).
  • Bhairava Heruka (Heru Cakra). It’s a mix of some local believes in Indonesia and Kala Cakra ideology. This sect sprouted at Padang Lawas, West Sumatra. Kublai Khan, the emperor of Yuan Dynasty in China, had followed Bhairava Heruka too. You can find the statues of this sect in Biaro Bahal II Temple, Padang Lawas, and around the middle Sumatra.
  • Bhairava Bima Sakti. It’s a mix of Bhairava and Hindu-Shiva religion. The followers are mostly in Bali. One of them is King Kebo Parud. The statues, like we all know, are in the Kebo Edan Temple.

My best guess, Tantrayana ideology has been rooted in Bali due to strong influence of Java, specially from Kediri Kingdom when King Kertanegara ruled in 13rd century. Kebo Parud, the king in Bali, definitely was his man.

Many historians assume that Bathara Shiva Bhairava statue represents Kebo Parud himself. Because, it is so normal that in the age of Hinduist or Buddhist kingdoms in Indonesia (or maybe in India too), a king used to consider himself as an avatar of his favorite deity, then created a self statue imitating physical appearance of that god.

Other Statues in Kebo Edan Temple

Pelinggih Ratu Bawi

At the right of Pelinggih Shiva Bhairava, there is another pelinggih with another water buffalo statue. The temple experts called it Pelinggih Ratu Bawi.

At its right, we see Pelinggih Ratu Pinatih. There lies a giant statue and big statues fragment. The giant glares with eyes wide-open. There are skull accessories on his/her head, neck, hips, and earrings.

Pelinggih Ratu Pinatih

In the meantime, two buildings at the east are Bale Pemujaan (worshiping hall).

In front of Bale Pemujaan, Madya Mandala Zone of Kebo Edan Temple

Actually, there are some other relics in Kebo Edan Temple. Those are Pelinggih Ratu Glebeg (for Goddess Sri worshiping), Ratu Mas, Padmasana, Ratu Bayu, Ratu Pulu, Ratu Gana, Pengaruman, Piyasan, Bale Pawedan, et cetera.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have opportunity to explore them all, because I was on tight schedule. There were still some other locations I had to visit due to the story research. So, I quickly walked back to the guard post to return the fabric belt.

Pura Kebo Edan Contact

  • Address: Jalan Raya Tampaksiring, Blahbatuh, Ubud, Bedulu, Gianyar 80571, Bali, Indonesia
  • Telephone: +62 361 942354

Utama Mandala (Jeroan) Zone of Kebo Edan Temple

  • Photos by Brahmanto Anindito

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