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iXiGOers Dec 09 2012

Which are the popular religious sites in Bali?

Ravinder Malik DEC 10 2012
0 people found this answer useful Useful ?Yes

Spiritually blessed Balinese life has long been the backpackers’ go to destination for a bit of mystic spirituality, yoga, mountain-top sunrises and beachside sunsets. Temples are the single most important establishments in Bali. You might think that Bali’s ‘a city of thousand temples’ moniker is just that, an exaggeration. Really, it is an understatement as every house, village, and irrigation site has a temple or pura. Interestingly, all temples are either oriented from the mountain, considered holy or kaja or seaward, considered profane or kelod.

Another fascinating aspect of Balinese temples is that certain temples, 9 in total, are considered kahyangan jagat or directional temples and believed to protect the island from evil spirits. Occupying locations such as mountain slopes, cliff tops or caves that are considered auspicious, the 9 directional temples of Bali are Pura Luhur Batu Karu on the southern slopes of Gunung Batukaru, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan at Bedugul, Pura Ulun Danu Batur at Kintamani on the Bukit, Pura Luhur Uluwatu, Pura Masceti near Sanur in the south, Pura Goa Lawah and Pura Lempuyang on the slopes of Gunung Lempuyang in the central mountains, Pura Besakih on the western slopes of Gunung Agung and Pura Sambu on the southern slopes of Gunung Agung. Some of the popular religious sites in Bali that are a must visit are:

  • Pura Gunung Kawi

Technically not a temple, Pura Gunung Kawi is nonetheless considered a sacred site and is really a place where ancient royal tombs are lined in 2 rows. 2 km south of Tampaksaring, the site is located on the banks of holy Pakerisan River. Within the rocky cliff face, 10 candi (shrines) have been carved into. Standing 7 meter high, these shrines are dedicated to King Anak Wungsu of the Udayana dynasty, his queens and descendants. A long, steep flight of stone stairs will lead you to the place tucked deeply in a ravine overlooked by rice fields. Surrounded by lush greenery, with nature having taken over, the holy site is actually cut into 2 halves by the Pakerisan river and you can reach either side with the help of a bridge connecting the 2 sides. Little is known about the origin of this site though several theories are abound.

  • Pura Luhur Uluwatu

One of Bali’s nine directional temples, Pura Luhur Uluwatu is known more for its dramatic location and incredible vistas its lays open your way. Sitting precariously at the edge of a massive cliff jutting out into the Indian Ocean, at a height of 250 feet above the crashing waves below, the temple is located in Pecatu village, Kuta South District of Badung Regency. Looking like a giant hill mushroom emerging from the flora around, the temple is made of beautiful black coral rock. It is the holy site where sage Dang Hyang Nirartha of East Java attained moksha. It is said that a small temple existed at this site, before Empu Kuturan, a Javanese Hindu priest discovered it in the 11th century and expanded it. Once you get to know that the temple is dedicated to the spirits of the sea, you can understand the significance of its location and it begins to appear as if the temple is standing firmly in its perched position with its benevolent presence calming the powerful ocean water and all that inhabits it.

There is an entrance fee of INR 110 and you need to properly dressed and covered to enter the temple. Keep in mind that the central courtyard of the temple is open to public only on the occasion of special rituals. Be careful on your climb up-railings are few and most times you have to rely on your sense of balance. Try and visit the temple in the evening, when it is possible to see the sun set in the distant horizon. It is an incomparable view. Also, do not forget to catch the unique Kecak performance, a dance and musical drama, held at night in the temple complex.

Now a bit of warning-the temple is filled with packs of monkeys, though the word gang would be more appropriate. Not afraid of humans, they gleefully make a lunge for anything and everything you are holding in your hands. If the monkeys get too close, ask the temple priests or locals to help you out. Keep a tight grip on all your belongings and if worst comes to worst, you can bribe them with some fruit to get your belongings back, though it only emboldens them.

  • Pura Besakih

Holiest of holy and the largest temple in Bali, Pura Besakih resides on the southern slopes of Mount Agung, the highest point of Bali and its main volcano. Called the Mother Temple, when you enter the complex you will come across twenty two temples sitting on parallel ridges. From the lowest level to the last level which has the main spire, Meru, called Pura Penataran Agung, you will be walking across a flight of stairs each ascending to courtyards and brick gateways. As you take the stairs and climb up each level, keep in mind that according to temple structure and mythology, you are getting closer to the mountain considered sacred, spiritually and physically. The temple’s stairs, stepped terraces and brick gateways, all, is actually aligned along a single axis to serve this purpose. The temple name literally translates to Temple of Spiritual Happiness and one of the few places in this world where you are likely to attain it.

Though the temple dates to 14th century, its main sanctuary, the Pura Penataran Agung, symbolized by a lotus throne where you can witness all the spectacular ceremonies of the temple being held, was built in the 17th century. In a given year at least 70 festivals are held at the complex and whenever you visit the complex one or more shrines must be celebrating their yearly anniversary.

Interestingly, Mount Agung had erupted in 1963 killing almost 1,700 people in its wake. However, its lava missed the temple by couple of meters, an event considered nothing short of miraculous by Balinese, attesting to the temple’s sacredness and their faith.

  • Pura Lempuyang

A series of two temples, Pura Lempuyang is situated on the slopes of Mount Lempuyang, east of Tirtagangga. Another one of the 9 directional temples of Bali, temple stands tall warding off evil from the east side. The first temple is a short distance on foot and belies the climb up to the upper temple. The lower temple is always open to public and you can easily go in to pay your tributes. To reach the upper temple, it will require stamina and faith to climb the 1,700 winding steps through the forested slope of Mount Lempuyang. Once you reach the upper temple, the views of Mount Agung stretching before you are simply divine and well worth the searing pain in your chest and spots in your vision. Keep in mind that the upper temple is usually locked and you will need a local to arrange for the temple priest to open it up for you. The best option is to go in a cab with a Balinese driver, who can assist you with this.

  • Pura Luhur Batukaru

Located in the town of Tabanan in Central Bali near Wongayagede village, snugly on the slopes of Mount Batukaru since 11th century is Pura Luhur Batukaru. An important site for Hindu Balinese pilgrimage, the temple was ransacked and razed in the 16th century by a rival king thought to have come from Buleleng. The temple wasn’t restored until 1959. As you enter the temple complex, you are hit by the fragrance of frangipani and the exploration takes you through a lush tangle of wild flowers, hibiscus and frangipani. The most important shrine in here is the seven-tiered pagoda, dedicated to Mahadeva, who is the presiding God of Mt Batukaru. There is a main enclosure towards the north and 2 smaller complexes further in the forest that surrounds the temple. Within the main complex you can see many shrines, each representing a different Tabanan dynasty.Take a walk to the east of the temple, towards the large pond. The pond honours the gods of Lake Tamblingan, situated near. In the middle of the lake is a small island. However, you cannot venture out to it as only local priests are allowed.

To see the temple in their complete glory, the time of ceremonies is the perfect occasion. All decked up, adorned in bright hues, with offerings being made and gamelan reverberating through the atmosphere giving you goosebumps, spirit of the temples can be felt palpably.

Temples and shrines of Bali have their own code of conduct and it is very important to follow them stringently. Being attired in Sarongs and sash is must and almost all temples and shrines have sarongs and shawls available outside for free or on rent. Also, most temples and shrines have an entry fee.

Immerse yourself in the native optimism and natural sanctity of Bali’s way of life and you will find yourself that bit closer to harmony and inner peace. Don't forget to find cheap air tickets on ixigo to reach Bali.

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