A Balinese land owner has made one of the most significant archeological discoveries on the island in years. Wayan Puja, from Banjar Dalem in Pejaten Village in Tabanan Regency, recently discovered a man-made cave complex lying beneath his farmland. The discovery is of huge cultural significance and both the Tabanan Culture Service and Wayan Puja hope that the site can be preserved for all generations to come.
It is thought that Wayan Puja discovered the cave complex while clearing scrub from his land. Since it’s unearthing, Puja has been visiting the spot every day. He has been giving blessings and making offerings to his land. He and his younger brother Ketut Nada, have built a bamboo structure around the entrance to the cave, sheltered by a corrugated zinc roof to keep the site as intact as possible and ready for archaeological teams to launch an investigation.
The Tabanan Culture Service has visited the site and substantiated Puja’s discovery. They confirmed to the press that the cave complex has four chambers, though there may be more to the cave than meets the eye right now. Puja and the Tabanan Culture Service have informed the higher authorities that the cave is a suspected cultural heritage object. In light of this, a full excavation would need the permission of the government as stipulated in the Cultural Conservation act.
The application to the Cultural Conservation Preservation Agency and Bali’s Archeology Centre includes a request to excavate the site and remove up to 40cm of sediment. What is clear is that the cave was created for a cultural or religious purpose. The teams believe that the cave’s primary function was meditation. It origins could be connected to Goa Gajah Temple and Cave.
No formal investigations or excavations will begin during the Galungan festival, Ketut Nada told reporters that initial excavation would likely begin after Kuningan Day, the last day of the Galungan festival. He confirmed that the Cultural Conservation Preservation Agency and Bali’s Archeology Centre have acknowledged their application and plans are being made to register this newly discovered historical site with the government.
The Head of Tabanan Culture Service, Wayan Sugatra, told reporters that the priority now is to protect the cave from any damage. He said that registering the site as a ‘cultural heritage object’ would mean that the site is protected by law for its important historical, scientific, or cultural value.
This means that vandalism or intentional damage caused to the site would result in criminal prosecution. It also means that the site may be eligible for a government grant for restoration and ongoing preservation.
There are over 8,000 cultural heritage properties and objects across Indonesia, these include temples, mosques, historic buildings, and national parks. Many of these sites have been granted World Heritage Site status too. World Heritage Sites often receive funding from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNSECO).
Bali’s World Heritage Sites have become some of the island’s most famous and highly visited tourist attractions. Tirta Empul Temple, Ulun Danu Batur Temple, and the Tatuluwih Rice Fields are just three of Bali’s fifteen World Heritage Sites.
Wayan Puja is hopeful that his discovery will eventually be granted protection and preservation by the Indonesian government and UNESCO. In the meantime, he intends to care for the caves himself and work with the archaeological teams to excavate and restore the cave to make it accessible for people to comet visit the cave and his village.
The local archeological teams will support him in discovering the story behind the cave’s purpose. The site could become Bali’s next must-visit tourist destination.
Wayan Puja is not the only man trying to create new tourism initiatives to support his community. In Temesi Village in Gianyar Regency, a group of young cultural conservationists is working together to put the ‘undiscovered’ Temesi Waterfall on the tourist map. The waterfall is said to be one of Bali’s best-kept secret spots.
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