The Pejeng Water Vessel

The Pejeng water vessel originates from the Puser Ing Jagat temple in Pejeng, Bali. The vessel is 75 centimers tall and made from volcanic rock. According to Stutterheim the water vessel is made in 1329 AD. His assumption is based on the numbers 1, 1, 2 and 5 which have remained visible on the vessel (Stutterheim 1929:170-171); the year 1251 in the Saka calendar corresponds with the year 1329 in the Christian calendar.

The Pejeng Water Vessel

Most likely the object served as a vessel for holy water, which was closed off either with a wooden or stone lid (Bernet Kempers 1991:144). The relief of the vessel depicts vegetation on the top and water at the base. At the top there seem to be depicted clouds and birds as well as a celestial nymph with wings (possibly this figure could also be Garuda). Also, there are eight nāgas wrapped around the vessel; only three nāga heads have been kept preserved, the remaining nāgas probably were on the other side of the vessel, which is severely damaged. The nāga heads are bent toward each other with their mouth wide open. Their tongues, necks and tails are entangled in each other.

Pejeng Water Vessel Top

If we look a little closer we see there are eight figures supporting the nāgas with their hands in a strange position. These figures are dressed in Royal garment and wearing a crown with a halo behind the head. Most likely these eight figures are supposed to represent divine beings. It is rather difficult to determine what particular gods are featured here, because none of them is wearing any particular attributes. We may conclude that the water vessel depicts the sacred Mount Meru with nāgas tied around the mountain and the gods and demons pulling the nāgas in order to churn the milky ocean so they can obtain the elixir of immortality – amṛta.

Pejeng Water Vessel Base

On top of the nāgas there is a figure sitting on a lotus throne; three more of such figures are depicted, each in one of the cardinal directions of the Universe. The fact that they are surrounded by a halo as well as the jewelry they wear suggests these are divine beings. In their hands they are holding various attributes, like a bow, a drum, a vajra and a fish. All of these gods have four arms, some of which are placed in a specific mudrā; based on the attributes and mudrās we may conclude that these divine beings are either Indra, Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva, or the Four Kings of the Cāturmahārājika (Vaiśravaṇa Kubera, Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Virūḍhaka and Virūpākṣa) Heaven.

Pejeng Water Vessel


Bernet Kempers, A.J, 1991: ‘Monumental Bali’. Singapore: Periplus.

Stutterheim, W.F., 1929: ‘Oudheden van Bali’. Bali: Kirtya Liefrinck – Van der Tuuk.

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