The sexual tension used to be high at this temple. The male worshippers envied the size of the god’s phallus, and the females were aroused. And so the statue of god Ciwa Bhairawa with his four phalluses were covered with a chequered cloth.
Pura Kebo Edan is an interesting temple with an unusual story. But before we get started, here’s a quick lesson in Bahasa Indonesia: Pura means temple, kebo means buffalo and edan means crazy. Put it all together we have ‘Pura Kebo Edan’, which loosely translated to ‘Temple of the Crazy Buffalo’.
Legend has it that centuries ago there were two disgruntled buffalos that got into an extreme fight. Then stepped in Ciwa Bhairawa, a representation of Shiva, the god of destruction. The god stopped the fight by killing the two buffalos, which were believed to be the embodiment of evil spirits trying to create chaos in the village.
Anyway, the temple is interspersed with quite a number of century-old statues, with one being especially appealing. It is the Ciwa Bhairawa statue, which has been sculpted to have all the important aspects of a male human body, including the genitals. Of course, one is not a big deal; but four male genitals on one body? Now that’s really something!
The phalluses, sculptured in a way that depicts a movement, dangles to the right and left. It is said that the two-way movement symbolises dualism, Ciwa and Bhairawa, two Hindu teachings originated from Kediri in East Java that is currently practised in the temple; hence the name of the statue. In addition to the male genitalia, there’s also a snake winding itself around the god’s left leg whilst his left foot is dancing on top of the head of a dead evil spirit.
There’s also another theory that suggests that the statue is of Bima, one of the Pandawa Lima or five brothers from the Mahabharata Hindu epic tale. It said that Bima was madly in love with a village girl, but the girl turned him down because of his gigantic phallus. The girl later fell in love with another man. When Bima heard about the rumour, he went to confront the girl, only to find her making love to the man. Bima was so angry that he killed the couple, crushing the man’s head with his foot – as portrayed by the statue.
Being a Balinese Hindu temple, Pura Kebo Edan has been a place of worship for centuries now. However, this statue, with its four phalluses, has created quite a stir, since it is a distraction to those who are praying – especially the female visitors. However, men, too, gaze enviously at the statue and wonder if they measure up, and this corrupts the temple’s function as a place of worship. In fact, there was a moment that the village’s pregnancy rate was unusually high.
This is why the statue’s lower body is now swathed in a chequered black and white loincloth. A lot of Balinese Hindus still pay homage at the temple every now and then, though visitors have dwindled, and, this time, they’re there solely for religious and spiritual purposes.
Whether the statue is a representation of Ciwa Bhairawa or Bima is still being debated today. With that being said, there are quite a number other statues from the 13th century in the temple, though many of them are damaged. Among the statues is an ancient Ganesha, a human-elephant hybrid, and the god of knowledge and wisdom. The locals believe that if one strokes the Ganesha statue on the forehead, you’ll be blessed with the two traits the god is known for.
Pura Kebo Edan is located in Pejeng Village, Tampaksiring. If you’re coming from the direction of Goa Gajah, the temple is located on the left side of the road before Gunung Kawi. Tampaksiring is a popular tourist spot because it’s the location of the beautiful summer palace of Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president, and was built in 1957. Pura Kebo Edan and Tampaksiring are close enough to one another so that you can visit both in a single day.