Whenever treading sacred space, one treads through the misty landscape of myth as well. The island of Bali, Indonesia, has nine sacred temples. Of them, the cave temple named Pura Goa Lawah houses thousands of bats. Locals will tell you that the bats distract from the real jewel of the cave—a great snake that wears a crown of gold set with dazzling stones. It is taken from the Hindu myth of the sacred snake Vasuki, the king of serpents curled around Lord Shiva, who lives in the mysterious recesses of the tunnel. The bats are his food and sustenance. The legend says a secret river of healing waters flows deep inside the cave, and those bathing in it will be cured of all disease. The place got its name from the innumerable bats that hang down from the ceiling and cling to the walls of the natural chasm—“Goa” means “cave” and “Lawah” means “bat” in Balinese.
Ancient temple buildings greet the visitor at the entrance to Pura Goa Lawah. Legend says an unnamed Indonesian holy man built the temples in 1007, but the original name of the site has been lost to antiquity until the bats gave it another name. Locals continue to maintain the structures, and prayers are held here every day. Superstition says the cave runs all the way through the mountain to reach a nearby town.
Mystifyingly, nobody has explored Goa Lawah’s deep recesses yet. A yearly festival that attracts thousands of devotees from all over Indonesia come and pray at the temples that guard the entrance of this mysterious batcave.