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Historical Kingdoms of Bali

While you are in Bali experience non-touristy activities by tracing the island’s richest archaeological zones of Bedulu in Gianyar regency, around 65 kilometers northeast of Nusa Dua. Located between parallel rivers — the Pakerisan or River of the Short Dagger and the Petanu or River of the Curse, Bedulu village is rich in ancient Hindu and Buddhist temples, pre-historic relics, and the ruins of stone-carved “palaces,”. The area was once known as Bali’s “valley of kings”

Here you find fragments of Bali’s monumental kingdoms. Evidence, dating back to the Bronze age, of the island’s first human habitation is believed to have been unearthed here. And this is where Bali’s rich culture and traditions were born Rita A. Widiadana explains.

The first stop on your journey into the heart of ancient Bali is Goa Gajah (The Elephant Cave). You enter the cave through Goa Gajah’s fanged mouth. Here in the cavernous tunnel rests the elephant statue Ganesha, son of Siva, Hindu god of destruction.

According to a 14th century Javanese inscription, Goa Gajah was once Bali’s principal Buddhist sanctuary and stone-carved elements and artifacts of both the Hindu and Buddhist religions, dating from the 8th to 14th centuries, are found here.

This evidence suggests that Bali’s religious blending of Hinduism and Buddhism goes back centuries.

A few hundred meters east of Goa Gajah, lies the narrow rural streets of the oldest village in Bali, Bedulu village, believed to be the capital of the 10th century Beda-Hulu kingdom.

Nearby is the Gedong Arca Antiquities Museum housing many fragments that illuminate Bali’s 400,000 years of human endeavor. Fragments ranging from simple Paleolithic stone tools and blades through the pre-Hindu Bronze Age to the golden era of Balinese Hindu-Buddhism are here.

Of special interest are the large sarcophagi that have been excavated from many locations on the island.

The adjacent Pura Penataran Sasih temple houses the largest known relic from Southeast Asia’s Dongsong Bronze age; the bronze “Moon of Pejeng” drum, which dates from around 300 B.C. The Balinese believe the drum was the chariot wheel of the goddess of the moon. Legend says a thief wanted to steal the glowing drum. To dim the shine he decided to urinate on it and died instantly.

Made Kusumajaya, an archaeologist and former head of Bali Antiquity museum in Bedulu, is alarmed with the rapid developments around this historical site.

“This important historical site faces great threats from the rapid development of tourism,” he said.

Luxury hotels, boutique villas, restaurants and cafes are mushrooming in the once sleepy village of Bedulu.

Hotel and residential construction along the river banks of the historical Petanu and Pakerisan rivers continue, despite planning regulations and laws protecting the area.

“In addition to environmental concerns, the areas along the two rivers are among Indonesia’s richest archaeological zones that are protected by antiquity laws,” Made said.

There are fears this most precious historical site will be one day lost, transformed into another glittering tourist zone.