The Ubud Legend

Wandering Indian sage, Rsi Markandya, arrived from Java towards the end of the first millennium AD. With a large following of men he crossed the narrow strait and headed to large mountain in the far east of Bali, Mt Agung, which then was known as To Langkir. Here they began to clear the land to establish a settlement, however, diabolical events ensued and after the death of many of his followers Rsi Markandya returned to East Java.

Rsi Markandya sat in meditation for 35 days until a voice from heaven spoke to him:  “ Markandya, you wish to know why we Gods have not granted you our divine protection in Bali.  This is why.  You may worship us.  But, regarding your presence in Bali this may not be sufficient.  You must make offerings: to cleanse the land, honor the Gods, and respect your ancestors. Only if you do that we will bless you and and protect you from the island’s many woes and evils.”

Rsi Markandyaand his followers returned east to Mt. Agung and held a big purification ritual on the site that was later to become the Mother Temple and the largest of all Hindu temples complexes on the island, Pura Besakih.  He realised that all human actions must have their rites and every rite must be addressed to the three cosmic components of the world: the demonic, the human and the divine. Only then could man fit harmoniously into the larger cosmos.  This is why he gave the name Bali to the island, which comes from the word wali, or offering.

Later Rsi Markandya continued his journey westward where he came upon a place with beautiful trees that he named Taro, and travelled south following a river until he arrived at a junction where two rivers met and wherehe then retired into meditation.  He sensed, by the harmonious encounter of Man and Nature, this as a place bestowed by the favor of the Gods. Where right meets left and male meets female and two rivers blend into one. This site was named Campuhan (from campuh – mix) and is just to the west of the modern day town of Ubud. Here a holy temple, Pura Gunung Lebah, was built on the banks of the river as a special place of worship, ritual and ceremony, utilizing the mystical powers of this most sacred ground.

Ubud was originally called Ubad, meaning medicine in Balinese and the area became renowned as a unique place of healing. Campuhan and Ubud have continued to this day to be a source of light and inspiration for many, attracting artists, intellectuals, travellers and seekers.

     Campuhan (2 Rivers Meet)                                                   Campuhan Temple

Further temples and monasteries were established over the next 400 hundred years or so, the ninth century cave temples at Goa Gajah, the famed Elephant Cave (just east and northeast of Ubud), are architectural remains from this period and many of the dances, drama and rituals still practised in Ubud today, originated at this time. King Airlangga ruled all of Java and Bali in this era, and his seat of government was located in what is now the village of Batuan, just southeast of Ubud.

Another beautiful temple built around this time was GunungKawi, an 11th century temple complex in Tampaksiring north east of Ubud in Bali. It is located on the river Pakrisan. The complex comprises 10 rock-cut candi (shrines) carved into the cliff face. They stand in 7m-high (23 ft-high) sheltered niches cut into the sheer cliff face. These monuments are thought to be dedicated to King Anak Wungsu of the Udayana dynasty and his favourite queens.

The Javanese Majapahit kingdom conquered Bali in 1343, and the key final victory was against the Pejeng Dynasty centred at Bedulu, just to the east of Ubud. A great flowering of Balinese culture followed, and the ancestry of Ubud's current day aristocratic families can be traced back to this period. In the sixteenth Century, there was a total transplantation of the Majapahit Kingdom to Bali as the Islamisation of Java forced the Hindus eastwards. Power came and went between various dynasties and feudal lords, but the Ubud area remained a very important cog in the various regencies which ruled the island.

It has been the stamping ground of Bali's earliest dynasties in recorded history. It is here that the first great lines of Hindu Zed Kings established themselves. Pejeng was the center of power until the early 14th century, when the last line of Warmadewa was defeated by Majapahit Empire, Under Gajah Mada, in 1343. The two rivers, Petanu and Pakrisan, have been storing series of ancient historical remains along the banks, such as temples, meditation cells, baths and other monuments.

 LINKS to more history on Ubud: