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Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park - Bukit, Bali, Indonesia

Massive Statue of Vishnu Aspires to Be World's Largest Sculpture


Garuda Wisnu Cenkana, Bali, Indonesia

Head and torso of Vishnu, Garuda Wisnu Cenkana, Bali, Indonesia

Mike Aquino, licensed to About.com

Garuda Wisnu Kencana is a massive, unfinished statue in Bali that currently exists in pieces. Conceptualized by the Balinese artist Nyoman Nuarta, the statue (if completed) would depict the Hindu god Vishnu (or Dewa Wisnu, as he is known by the Balinese) riding aloft on his winged mount Garuda.

Once completed, the statue will rise 479 feet above the ground, taking first place in the world's tallest-statues contest (compare it to the Statue of Liberty which stands 151 feet). When completed, the statue will use up about 4,000 tons of brass and copper.

Like the statue, the commercial complex that will feed and entertain Garuda Wisnu Kencana's visitors is running only in fits and starts - the scenic restaurant Jendela Bali is open for business (and serves a heavenly crispy fried duck), but the shopping center envisioned for the site is still a pipe dream.

Even in its uncompleted state, what does exist is a breathtaking insight into the culture of Bali. Not just the folklore that Balinese religion lives by, but also the artistic and cultural push-and-pulls that make Garuda Wisnu Kencana such an ambitious and controversial undertaking.

Gigantic Statue of Wisnu and Garuda

The 240-hectare site of Garuda Wisnu Kencana is a disused limestone quarry. The place is rather barren compared to the lush landscapes typical of the rest of Bali.

The blankness of the place probably encouraged Nuarta and his principals to dream big dreams: apart from the towering statue of Vishnu and Garuda, the foundation that manages the site plans to set up a festival park, an exhibition hall, a lotus pond, and so many other facilities on site.

The biggest dream of all is just half-completed: as of now, what has been completed of the massive Vishnu/Garuda statue stands in pieces in several areas of the complex.

Vishnu's head and torso rise above the highest platform, which can be reached by climbing up a long stairway. Vishnu looks on with semi-closed eyelids, impassively viewing the crowds.

Garuda's head and shoulders stand on a lower platform, the huge scale being readily apparent from the people who stand under his chin for photos.

Vishnu's hands are set some distance away, closer to the entrance of the park.

The scale of the statue has excited some controversy - a Balinese law forbids buildings "higher than a palm tree" from being constructed in Bali. Some Balinese gurus are worried that the completed structure would disturb the spiritual eddies circulating around the island, and have succeeded in hampering the completion of the statue.

Jendela Bali and Other Facilities

Not that there's nothing else to do but gape at a half-completed leviathan at Garuda Wisnu Kencana. Jendela Bali restaurant is open for business, and serves wonderful restaurant-quality Balinese food from a series of balconies overlooking Jimbaran.

Jendela Bali is a favorite venue for weddings and corporate events; the function rooms and dining areas are very tastefully done in Balinese modern, replete with fountains and statuary.

Your guide absolutely enjoyed the crisp duck dish served at the Jendela Bali, downed with Bintang Beer. It's a pleasure to pick the duck apart at the end of the meal, looking for any meat you may have missed in the initial attack. The fruit dish a la mode that concluded the meal was quite refreshing, as the heat was almost unbearable.

The downside to Jendela Bali - no airconditioning. Which is a shame, since the patch of Jimbaran on which Garuda Wisnu Kencana stands is very hot in the summer months. (Blame it on the former quarry's lack of foliage and surfeit of bare rock.)

The statue makes a great backdrop for all sorts of outdoor events. Arrangements can be made with the central office to hire the following areas of the park for weddings, business meetings, and product launches.

  • Ampitheater - 800 seat venue intended for cultural performances
  • Lotus Pond - directly in front of Garuda's head, the Pond is surrounded by limestone pillars
  • Street Theater - a lane bordered by limestone cliffs used for parades, fashion shows, and other events requiring a long procession avenue
  • Indraloka Garden - a garden space with a breathtaking view of Jimbaran
  • Exhibition Gallery - a roofed courtyards with 200 square meters of space
  • Plaza Kura-Kura - a smaller, more intimate venue with room for 200 guests.

You can catch cultural performances along the street theater when you visit; your guide saw several men costumed as mythical barongs who were willing to have their pictures taken with visitors.

The following facilities were announced but not yet completed: a huge convention center capable of hosting 5,000 guests, an international trade and promotion center, a water park, a resort, and residential facilities.

Garuda Wisnu Kencana's Future in Question

The financial storm of the past few years has put the future of Garuda Wisnu Kencana into question. GWK Foundation Chair Made Mangku Pastika admits that $270 million will be needed to complete the entire complex; half of this sum will go to completing the statue, and the other half will go to finishing the envisioned complex around the statue. (Indonesia Ministry of Culture & Tourism)

Pastika projects a visitor profile of about 10,000 day when the statue is completed. In its present state, Garuda Wisnu Cenkana attracts up to 3,000 visitors in peak season. a realistic target given the fact that in it’s half-completed state it already manages to attract 2,000-3,000 visitors every day.

Getting to Garuda Wisnu Kencana

A visit to Garuda Wisnu Kencana can be arranged with a local tour agency or your hotel, as the place is a bit out of the way.

A bus headed to Garuda Wisnu Kencana will take the roundabout at Simpang Siur to make its way to Nusa Dua. The bus will take a right turn to Uluwatu, following Jalan Uluwatu up a hill until Garuda Wisnu Kencana's park entrance hoves up on the left, marked by a massive sign.

The park housing Garuda Wisnu Kencana is a 25-minute drive south from Kuta; the park is open daily from 8am to 10pm, and charges an admission fee of IDR 15,000, or about $1.60.

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