Bali Temples


Pura Besakih is not one temple but a vast complex of temples sprawling across the mountainside. For most visitors, the first impression is of the literally hundreds of delicately towering meru, their many tiered roofs of black palm-fiber thatching pointing skyward like a fleet of rockets awaiting the signal for lift-off.

Pura Besakih is not a launch pad but a landing field for the gods. The central temple in the complex, Pura Penataran Agung, is dedicated to the god Siwa. Pura Batu Madeg is dedicated to Wisnu. Pura Kiduling Kreteg is dedicated to Brahma. There are nineteen more temples spreading up the mountain slopes, each with its own purpose and ceremonial season, but the three dedicated to the Hindu Trinity are the most important. Their orientation in relation to each other and the mountain is reflected in the three raised lotus-thrones, or padmasana trisakti, in the second courtyard of the Pura Penataran Agung, with Wisnu, Siwa, and Brahma sitting from left to right, though some say seats are not assigned.


Pura Tanah Lot was founded by the 16th-century priest Danghyang Niratha out of sheer adoration for the natural beauty of the landscape here. The little temple sits atop an outcrop of rock in the surf, guarded by sea snake. Visitors are not allowed to enter the temples at Pura Tanah Lot, and this is fortunate, for they arrive by hundreds everyday. It's still a place worth visiting. The big crush of tourists appears at sunset; those looking for some peace and quite should go just before dawn.

Besides Pura Tanah Lot there are several other temples nearby arrayed along the coast. The most picturesque of these is Pura Batu Bolong, its mean "the temple on the rock with a hole on it", a wall rock just out into the sea with a tiny temple on the tip. A huge arch is carved out by the sea.


Bukit's most famous landmark is the temple Pura Luhur Uluwatu, an architectural marvel situated on a headland at the westernmost tip of the plateau. According to the local tradition, the first Uluwatu temple was built by Empu Kuturan in the 11 th century, as one of the territorial temples of the island. Dang Hyang Niratha, the 16 th century reformer of Balinese Hinduism, rebuilt it in its present state. He is said to have elevated to heaven from it premises.
The temple is the best known for its sunsets over the long breakers of the sea downward, but it has also one of the most exquisite architecture of the island.
Pura Luhur Uluwatu, the amazing temple perching on the edge of stiff cliff on the South Coast. Like a ship of stone afloat in the sky, Pura Luhur Uluwatu is poised 825 feet above the Indian Ocean. The temple is carved from the enormous limestone rock upon which it sits at the farthest edge. Ulu means "head", watu is "rock" and luhur implies "heavenly", "ancestral", "original" and "transcendent" all at once.

Legend says that the temple was built by Mpu Kuturan in the 11th century, and then rebuilt several hundred years later by Danghyang Nirartha, the Javanese high priest who brought renewal of Hinduism to Bali in 16th century, in anticipation of his ultimate release there. Sacred monkeys roam freely over this high and airy place.


The one of the six axial temples (Sad Kahyangan) sacred to all Hindu Balinese, it may take a moment to appreciate that this is one of the most ancient sacred sites on the island. In the central temple courtyard are two large, long pavilion. The inner courtyard is small and neat, with three meru of three, five, and seven tiers in honor of the deified kings of Tabanan. The lake below has a shrine in the center honoring the goddess of Lake Tamblingan and the mount of Mount Batu Karu.


This temple contains a relic, a lock of the sage's hair (rambut) that is venerated (siwi). The temple is finely built of red brick with exquisite paras reliefs depicting scenes from the ancient play "Arjuna Wiwaha". A particularly good sculpture of Rangda stands guard in the gateway facing the sea. Down on the beach there are several cave temples, one of the most important bearing a sacred spring.


This temple is the ceremonial throne for Ida Bhatari Dewi Danu, the goddess of the lake. The goddess is honored with a tall meru of eleven tiers, sign of the highest divinity. The meru of her consort, the god of Mount Agung, has only nine, while two other nine-tiered meru are dedicated to the god of Mount Batur and to deified King Waturenggong. One of the most interesting shrines in he inner courtyard is distinctly Chinese-looking pavilion to the far left, dedicated to a Chinese princess whose image is recalled in the barong landung dance play. In clear whether, the temples many-tiered meru are visible from miles away, but it is perhaps most beautiful in the tumbling fogs that swirl around the caldera.


This temple, as jewel of the lake Bratan, located in tourist center known generally as Bedugul. This is a major stop for the tourist buses, but it is too beautiful to miss. The outer grounds have been formally landscaped with clipped lawns and bold flowerbeds that reflect the elegance of the lakeside temple and its stately meru. The temple is said to be associated with the Bratan clan of pande caste, from which the lake takes its name. The goddess of the lake is honored at Pura Ulun Danu at the taller of the two meru on little islands near the shore.


This water temple is a delightful complex. A natural spring flows from the heart of the temple into a pool so clear that you can count the scales on the huge goldfish ghosting around the opulent island shrine at its center. Holy water is requested at an adjacent small shrine while nearby, and still within the temple walls, are the open-air public baths.


Well-known for the Holy Spring Temple with the State Palace, built by President Sukarno in the 1950's, squats on the hill above the temple. Most of the pavilions and sculptures in this temple are neither old nor exceptional. The spring-fed bathing pools are its important feature. The ritual and historical importance to the people of Gianyar of this complex lies in these pools in which Indra's celestial army was revived before defeating King Maya Danawa.

Just downstream from Tirta Empul, across the road and down along flight of the steps, is a far more peaceful temple complex called PURA MENGENING which is also built around a sacred spring. Here, where a great tree shades the pool, a strong sense of the Balinese veneration of nature can be felt.


The monastery is presided over by one of Bali's few Buddhists monks, Bhikku Giri Rakhita, a Brahman from Banjar, now elderly but still formidably energetic. The ashram, set into a hillside a few miles inland from Banjar, is well signposted and welcomes visitors. The monastery a blend of Balinese and mainland Southeast Asian architecture, offers a stunning panorama down to the sea. Not far to the west of the monastery is the Banjar Tega Hot Springs. The key word for this little spa is modesty: in fees, in water temperature about 100 Fahrenheit and in proper attire for bathing.


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