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There is no doubt that each temple is a monument over a dead royal figure, mainly because they have the same shape as burial towers found all over Central and East Java. Exactly which royalties these are made for is disputed, the most popular theory is that the five temples east of the river are built for King Udayana, his Javanese queen Guna Pria Dharma Patni, his concubine, his oldest son Airlangga, who ruled East Java, and his youngest son Anak Wungsu. Anak Wungsu ruled Bali from 1050 to 1077. The four temples on the west side of the river should then have been built for the chief concubines of Anak Wungsu. The tenth, about 1 km away, is probably built to honor Rakryan, Anak Wungsu's prime minister.

Another theory is that the entire complex was built only for Anak Wungsu, his wives and favorite concubines, who probably killed themselves to follow their ruler into eternity. This particular architecture does originate on Java and it's also said that it can resemble Indian temples. The uniqueness about these monuments compared to other similar sites is that they do not stand freely, but are part of the mountain.

To the right of the main entrance is a Buddhist monastery. The monks were probably caretakers of Gunung Kawi. The complex is open daily, and the area is nice and tidy, surrounded by lovely rice paddies and trees. From the souvenir stalls on the top you walk down a long, steep stairway with 315 steps and through a gate carved out of the mountain. Don't miss this place; it is absolutely worth a visit! There is another Gunung Kawi in the Sebatu village 5 km further north, but this is a bathing place.

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