Bali's own Valley of the Kings is Gunung Kawi Temple in Tampaksiring. This collection of candi is beautifully situated in a river valley surrounded by rice fields and jungle. This has been one of our favorite day trips for years.
Gunung Kawi Temple is a collection of ten candi, created to evoke the appearance of temple fronts and designed to provide residence for the souls of ancient kings. The candi are hewn into the valley walls on both sides of the Pekerisan River. The Gunung Kawi Temple does have an interesting history. Inscriptions over each Candi approximate the date of construction to be in the 11th C. It is believed that each temple served as a memorial to a deified royalty principally because they are shaped like the burial towers, or Candi’s, found throughout Central Java. But in Java they are free standing whilst those found at Gunung Kawi are actually hewn relief's in solid rock. While the exact origin of the candi is unknown, there is evidence to suggest that the first set of five were built to honor King Anak Wungsu, whose rule over central and east Bali extended from AD 1050 to about AD 1080. It is possible that one was built for him and the other four for his wives, who would have ceremonially committed suicide after his death
Gunung Kawi Temple is two rows of ancient royal tombs on the banks of the Pakerisan River deep in a ravine overlooked by terraced rice-fields. The holy Pakersian River flows through the centre of Gunung Kawi cutting the site into two separate sections with a bridge to connect one side to the other. It is believed the holy waters of the Pakerisan sanctify Gunung Kawi, and the beauty of the place evokes a relaxing and peaceful atmosphere.
On the east side of the river are situated five candi which constitute the main group in this complex. Across the bridge are four candi on the west side. The remaining candi at the southern end is often referred to as the ‘tenth tomb’. At the bottom of the stairway and to your right-hand side through a small field (about one kilometer) is where the tenth tomb is located. The legend to this amazing place is intriguing. It is believed that the mythical giant Kebo Iwo carved out all of the ancient tombs in one night with his fingernails. There are 3 temples which so called the name as Gunung Kawi in Bali those are Gunung Kawi in Sebatu countryside, Gunung Kawi Temple in Keliki countryside and Gunung Kawi Temple in Babitra countryside. Behind the small temple you can find a couple of meditation caves, which indicates that this is a pre-Hindu place where monks and pilgrims came together to meditate.
Gunung Kawi Temple is located near Tampak Siring village, around 5 km from well known Tirta Empul Temple. The location is 35 km from Denpasar, city, 50 km from Kuta, and 68 km from Nusa Dua. It is still one route from Goa Gajah Temple, Pura Pusering Jagat, Gunung Kawi Temple, and Tirta Empul Temple. This area preserves many ancient sites, stone sculptures and rock cut structures, especially along the slope of Pakerisan river. The site of Gunung Kawi Temple is reachable only by foot from the parking area, passing elevating slope of the river with more then 100 steps down and up the river. It is just after the village of Pejeng, a village full with ancient remains of ancient stone sculptures, and even the oldest historical fact on Buddhism is found also around this village. Today due to the rich contains in historical fact a museum has been built before the village of Pejeng, near the temple of Kebo Edan. Within the village of Pejeng to mention a few of them there are some temples with ancient heritages such as Pura Pusering Jagat, Pura Rejuna Metapa, Pura Kebo Edan, Pura Samuan Tiga, Pura Bedugul Kana, and still many other smaller temples that preserves the ancient stone sculptures. Pejeng is a real historical museum.
If we see from the name we know today, it might be the possibility of translation Mountain as a Gunung and Kawi as poet, so gunung Kawi can be meant the mountain of poet. The river that forms the ravine which slope is cut for the temple is Pakerisan river, kris means Balinese long blade or knife. What is actually referred by the name is not clear until now. The people today consider this complex as part of a temple which was constructed much later time. See from the history it is not part of a temple in the meaning of worshipping the Hindu God, but having the relation with personal deification of a king. The whole complex consist of 5 smaller complexes, and including the temple are 6 complexes. Two complexes at the east slope of the river and 3 complexes are on the west slope. Two complexes facing each other separated by the river are identified as belong to the king and his Queen or concubines. The complex for the king consist of 3 rock cut candis and the complex for the Queen consist of 4 rock cut candis. It is hard to understand that only the candi for the king made in 3. It might be the king was with his 2 principal consorts, and the 4 candis across the river were only for his other concubines. At the door of the candi for the king is mentioned in a inscription of the king died at Jalu. Jalu can mean kris or taji, a sharp small blade armed for the cock fighting. Who was the king monumentalized here? is un-answered question until now, except based on highly decorative writing of inscription called "Quadrangular Kadiri writing style" The influence of Kadiri kingdom to Bali was only arrived around 1227 AD under the king Kertanegara. While the date carved at the stone sculpture on Mount Panulisan with the same style mentioned the dates 1011 AD, 1074 AD, and 1077 AD. While the period between 989 AD to 1001 AD was the rule of king Udayana Warmadewa with his Queen Mahendradatta. In their charters it is mentioned that king Udayana was deified at "Banyu Wka", and his Queen Mahendradatta was deified at Buruan which is already identified, and only Banyu Wka is not identifiable until today, and archaeologists supposed that Banyu Wka is Gunung Kawi, as Banyu means water, and Wka means clear or clean, so he must have been deified at a river with very clean water, yet an ancient monument just renovated is Pura Mangening which also refers the name of ening or clear. The problem is the complex of the temple is not big, only one stone shrines with small zone. If we compared with his Queen monument in Buruan it makes sense that the king would not need big complex to commemorate himself. So who was monumentalized at Gunung Kawi? Some archaeologists believed that was the son of Udayana, either king Marakata Pangkajasthana or Anak Wungsu. The rule of Marakata is not known much and there is not many record about his government. Different from Anak Wungsu who issued many inscriptions and he was a diligent king in making every records which lead an idea that he was a great king just like his father king Udayana. With the length of time of ruling that was from 1049 AD to 1077 AD can be a proof that during his rule the condition of the society was good, and it was not impossible he was respected by their whole people. As the fact of many great king in Indonesia that commemoration with candi or sculpture was a normal way the people to honor their king who was able to bring the welfare for the society. In this case writer wish to believe that Gunung Kawi Temple has been dedicated for the great name of king Anak Wungsu.