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The Pura Besakih Temple in Bali is Home to 23 Hindu Gods and More ; Exploring The Temple Like a Local

Comprising of 23 temples, the Pura Besakih is located 1,000 meters above the southern slopes of Mount Agung

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Pura Besakih temple
The 'Mother Temple', Pura Besakih Temple in Bali, Indonesia has been previously declared as a World Heritage Site. Wikimedia

Bali, September 19, 2017 : From the outside, any ordinary visitor might simply pass by a concrete temple constructed on the slopes of Mount Agung, completely unaware of the holy secrets and the architectural marvels that the structure holds. But if you are a believer of Indian mythology, then you must plan a visit to Pura Besakih temple in East Bali, Indonesia.

The ‘Mother Temple’ in Bali, the largest and the holiest temple on the Island-Pura Besakih is recognized as the primary Hindu temple in Bali and stands tall at a height of 30,000 feet on Mount Agung.

The complex combines at least 86 different shrines together and is delightfully surrounded by mountains, brooks, rice plantations, and the Bali beach at a distance among other extraordinary views.

Pura Besakih
Pura Besakih Temple complex comprise the largest and holiest Hindu shrines in Indonesia. Wikimedia

Ascending up on a stairway, the temple premises resting at the slope echoes a mystical vibe and should be a must stop at every visitor’s list! You can depend on us for the details!

History of Pura Besakih

The exact details of the temple complex’s construction cannot be verified as some locals debate its engineering in the 14th century while others believe they have been around since the 10th century!

The area of the Pura Besakih had since early times revered as a holy place because of the presence of a central stone that now sits in the Pura Batu Madeg.

ALSO READ 5 Most famous Hindu Temples in South East Asia

The Story Behind The Name

Legends believe an 8th century monk had attempted to build homes and settle people in the area. On the completion of his mission, he named the complex ‘Basuki’, referring to the dragon deity ‘Naga Besukian’ who was believed to inhabit Mount Agung.

Over the years, the name evolved to ‘Besakih’ and other shrines were built around the area.

During the conquest of Bali by the Majapahit Empire in 1343, the complex was recognized as the main temple and has been restored several times in the consecutive years due to damage by earthquake.

In 1963, a volcano erupted and the lava flowed past the temples by just a few metres. This was interpreted as a sign of the gods signifying their powers by destroying everything but the temples that their devotees had constructed for them.

Architectural Marvel

Comprising of 23 temples, the Pura Besakih is located 1,000 meters above the southern slopes of Mount Agung.

Carefully carved stepped flight of stairs and terraces ascend to multiple courtyards and brick gateways leading to the chief Meru structure dedicated to Shiva, known as the Pura Penataran Agung.

Designed along a primary axis, the different levels are interpreted as leading the spiritual person ‘upwards and closer to the sacred mountain, where Gods reside’.

Pura Besakih
The central staircase leading up and into the heart of Pura Besakih, Penataran Agung. Wikimedia

At the heart of the temple complex, the Pura Penataran Agung, stands a stunning lotus throne, called the Padmasana dating back to the seventeenth century and comprises the ritualistic focus of the temple.

Pura Besakih’s Temples

An architectural marvel built on seven ascending levels, the Pura Besakih temple is primarily dedicated to the holy Hindu trinity.

  • With white banners, the Pura Penataran Agung forms the heart of the temple complex, dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva, the destroyer god of Hinduism. Dotted with aesthetically carved figures from the Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, a giant stairway allows the pilgrims to ascend to the top of the complex.
  • Decorated with black banners, Pura Batu Madeg, devoted to the preserver Lord Vishnu sits in the northwestern part of the temple
  • Dotted with red banners, Pura Kiduling Kreteg, devoted to the creator of the universe, Lord Brahma is situated across a channel to the southeast of the temple

These shrines, along with 19 other temples stretch across the complex, together make the holiest place of pilgrimage for the devout Balinese.

Pura Besakih
Shrine of a deer-God at Pura Besakih temple. Wikmedia

Closest to Mount Agung’s peak on the higher ground is Pura Batu Tirtha where you can find the foundation of the holy water, known to hold significance for religious ceremonies.

Pura Besakih is the primal centre for all ceremonial activities in Bali. The fact that the temple is the only temple open to every devotee from any caste group touches the heart of all who visit.

Ceremonies And Festivals At the Pura Besakih Temple

The temple complex is almost always bustling with activity and the influx of devotees. There are at least seventy festivals organized annually as almost every shrine commemorates its yearly anniversary known as odalan. This is based on the 210-day Balinese Pawukon calendar. Hence, you are sure to witness and be a part of one odalan irrespective of when you visit the temple

Some of the biggest festivals at Pura Besakih,

  • Batara Tarun Kabeh : The climax of the month’s activities fall on the eve of the tenth lunar month.

Translating to ‘the gods descend together’, the Balinese believe it is on this day that the Gods of all the temple shrines descend together simultaneously. Thus, the days marks an event not to be missed!

  • Temple Festival of Pura Penataran Agung (Odalan) : After every 210 days, the temple anniversary of the biggest single shrine of Besakih is celebrated with immense zeal and fervor. A spectacle of thousands of devotes praying collectively as they climb up the levels to the altars of the trimurti; the sight is heavenly!

Additionally, major holidays and full moon celebrations are also a sight at the Pura Besakih.

During celebrations, the devout Balinese locals dressed in traditional clothing flock the temple premises with a variety of gifts and offerings to please the almighty.

ALSO READ Hindu Temple in Aldenham (UK) Hosts Global Visitors for Largest ‘Hare-Krishna’ celebrations in the world

Visiting Pura Besakih

A day trip from the nearby cities of Ubud or Denpasar is sufficient to explore the Pura Besakih and its adjoining temples around Mount Agung. While the temples remain open to public throughout, they may be closed for tourists on special festivals and days. Make sure you ask the locals in Ubud before making the journey!

Tourism has provided the region with growth explosion and ultimately turned it into a tourist trap- you will come across several alleged ‘temple guards’, hawkers and guides hoping to acquire extra cash from the visitors.

You may seek assistance and hire the official temple guides who charge a nominal price for their services.

Proper dressing is a must at the complex; men and women must cover their legs when inside. Sarongs and sashes can either be procured at rent or bought from the many stalls and shops if needed. However, we recommend that you bargain while buying goods.

How To Reach Pura Besakih Temple

Located in East Bali, dotted on the southern slope of Mount Agung, Pura Besakih can be reached in an hour by car from Ubud. You can also avail the public transport from Ubud and Denpasar, which includes buses and minivans called bemos.

Pura Besakih
You can take a Bemo ride to the temple from Denpasar. Wikimedia

The last bemo ride from the complex to Denpasar leaves from the temple around 3 pm.

Pura Besakih Temple Timings

Pura Besakih is operational from sunrise to dusk. Tour buses, however, begin services around 9 am.

The best time of the day to visit the temple premises are in the early morning and the evenings as the region is much more peaceful at these times.

Pura Besakih Entry Fees

You will be required to pay an entrance fees of $1 at Pura Besakih, and some additional fees (though less than $!) for camera, parking, etc.

ALSO READ Off My Bucket List : 5 Offbeat Travel Destinations for History Lovers

Smart Tip To Make Your Travel Easy

Owing to the popularity of the complex, a number of scams and unnecessary hassles can potentially ruin your experience. Follow the given tips for a smarter travel,

  • Hindu temples necessitate a proper dress code- while sarongs can be rented outside the temple premises but it would be better to carry your own sarongs.
  • Also recommended is to get currency converted before you reach Pura Besakih as the conversion rates in the region keep fluctuating and are not very reliable.
  • Once inside the premises, you will be expected to give an additional donation. However, do not overdo the amount.
  • The temple premises can be independently explored. Do not let locals fool you into hiring a guide.

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  • Jacob

    The Mother Temple in Bali…stands tall 30,000 feet above Mount Agung

    wrong in a few ways

    • Soha Kala

      Hello Sir, thank you for pointing that out! Our team is working on it.

Next Story

The Hindu Temple of Gulyana and Sikh Samadhi in Pakistan

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Gulyana, Pakistan

By: Wali Imran (Hindu Council of Australia)

900 years old Gulyana town of about a 50,000 people, just a few kilometers South of Gujar Khan, was raised to the ground once several centuries ago, by raiders from the West. The second time it was destroyed during the 1947 partition riots.

Gulyana, Pakistan

Before 1947, the Gulyana town center was mostly Hindu and Sikh. The Hindus and Sikh owned all the businesses in the town center and Muslims were their tenants, peasants and laborers. Muslims sold their lands to pay off their debts and also handed over their crop of wheat. The Dewan, Dutt, Mohyal Brahmin, and Singh families were always part of royal elite.

Bollywood Star Sanjay Dutt is from the same branch of warrior Brahmin Dutt and belongs to the same place.

Gulyana, Pakistan

Land owners were guaranteed protection from military’s presence in Gujar Khan from the North and a rivulet from the south. This land produced sheer gold and wealthy Sikhs and Hindus lived like kings in mansions make of stone, several storey high.

Gulyana, Pakistan

Bakshi Tek Chand, Dewan Prithvi Chand Dutt, Bakshi Moti Ram and Tara Singh were the dominant names of those times.  They built temples, dug up wells for the 30-50 kanal holdings each and distributed these lands amongst their permanent serfs. They did however, treat their serfs with respect and gave them a good share of the crop — what do you expect from absentee landlords.

Gulyana, Pakistan

The Sikh had a timber business. Logs from Kashmir valley were dumped into Jhelum River and recovered downstream near Jhelum city to be sold at Gujar Khan.

The Hindus were mostly traders, money lenders and retailers.

Gulyana, Pakistan

Muslims were mostly illiterate and poor and were destined to stay that way considering the only quality boarding school in nearby Gujar Khan had 95% non-muslim attendance.

During the 1947 riots, one Sikh Bali Singh and one Hindu Lady Banto were killed in the riots but the rest were whisked away with their gold, in the safety of Gorkha soldiers. The Muslim riot crowd burnt to the ground the several symbols of oppression and got rich in the process, during the looting.

One Hindu tehsildar had the magistrate’s powers to jail someone for 6 months.

Gulyana, Pakistan

When the British left suddenly in 1947, the carefully crafted social experiment in native subjugation came crumbling down within days.

Otherwise, one 100 years old resident of Gulyana tells me, “the Hindus and Sikh were very friendly towards the Muslims, their women played around with the boys, molvi were not trouble makers then; they cared about their serfs and neighbors’, built schools, hospitals and wells for the general public. No Muslim was allowed into their kitchen however. Balraj, Sita, Beera, Ramu Shikari, Gujrati, Peecha Singh, Mangat Singh, Jawals Singh, Raab Singh, Gurdyal, were the well-known Hindus and Labbu, Gurra, Jagdev, Santa, Paacha, Chatru were the known Sikh of the time. One Tek Chand Never left for India and embraced Islam. His wife and three sons left for India. Tek Chand married a Muslim lady and had seven children. They are all in poverty now. Several of the old mansion, one dhramsala, one temple, several bowlis (watering hole) have been lost to time.

Gulyana, Pakistan

The surrounding farms around Gulyana were refreshing. The old styled spoke wells, Sikh Samadhi, Hindu temple and 100 years old Gujarati’s mansion still survives.