Besakih Temple known as Bali’s ‘Mother Temple’ for over 1000 years, located 1000 metres high on the southwestern slopes of Mount Agung. Besakih is an artistic and unique complex that comprises at least 86 temples which include the main Pura Penataran Agung (the Great Temple of State) and 18 others. Besakih is the biggest and holiest temple of the island and is surrounded by breathtaking and scenic rice paddies, hills, mountains, streams, and more. To the Balinese, visiting the temple sanctuaries is a special pilgrimage. Mount Agung’s high location gives it an almost mystical quality. Many stairs lead up to the sacred mountain, leading to the temples according to types, status, and functions. Pura Besakih features three temples dedicated to the Hindu trinity(Brahma, Vishn, Shiva). Pura Penataran Agung in the centre has three main shrine(pelinggih), first in the middle with white and yellow banners dedicate for Shiva (the destroyer), second on the right side with red banners dedicated for Brahma (the creator), and third on the left side with black banners dedicated for Vishnu (the protector). You can visit other temples in Pura Besakih, but many of their inner courtyards are closed to the public as they’re reserved for pilgrims. Pura Besakih is the only temple open to every devotee from any caste groups. This is because of its nature as the primal centre of all ceremonial activities.
Goa Lawah (bat cave ) Temple
Goa Lawah is one of Bali’s most important temples. It features a complex built around a cave opening that is inhabited by hordes of bats, and its name translates to ‘Bat Cave’. This temple was established in the 11th century by Mpu Kuturan, one of early priests who laid the foundations of Hinduism on the island. Goa Lawah is located in the village of Pesinggahan, Dawan district, bordering the Klungkung and Karangasem regencies. The Goa Lawah Temple is a large complex on the north side of the Jalan Raya Goa Lawah main road. It is a stopover for holidaying locals who come in with offerings and do short prayers before continuing with their journey. For general visitors, it is an included itinerary on temple tours for photo opportunities together with refreshment breaks at the kiosks across the road on Goa Lawah Beach. You can see the outline of Nusa Penida Island on the horizon from here. Two large banyan trees stand tall at the main entrance of Goa Lawah. Upon entering the temple’s central courtyard, you will see three bale pavilions in three corners of the complex. These bale are usually where fruit offerings are placed and where gamelan bands play during major ceremonies. At the centrepiece are age-old shrines which have withstood the hordes of nectar bats (Eonycteris spelaea) chirping in a frenzied din around and behind the shrines at the cave opening. Here is also a Shivaite shrine which has stood for thousands of years, together with a bale adorned with the motifs of Naga Basuki, the mythical dragon who is believed to keep the cosmos at a balance.
Once a place for deep meditation for priests, despite seeming impossible to do so amid the chirping, with the hollow cave opening amplifying the noise. Yet, people believe the constant natural high pitches aided in their focus of thoughts.
The tale goes that a prince from the Mengwi kingdom hid away from enemies inside the cave and subsequently followed through, eventually emerging at Besakih Temple on the foot of Mount Agung, which is northeast from this location. No one has attempted to prove or bring light to this interesting tale.
According to the locals and the temple community, the cave leads to three different locations, Mount Agung (Besakih), Talibeng and Tangkid Bangbang. There are various accounts that when Mount Agung erupted in 1963, ash emerged from Goa Lawah. The best time to visit is in the mornings when most of the locals living in the nearby villages come for their daily prayers. However, afternoons are also pleasant, as the large trees provide a balance of shade to cool the sultry southern beach breezes from across the road. Goa Lawah’s piodalan or grand temple anniversary takes place every 210 days on the Balinese Pawukon calendar cycle of an Anggara Kasih Medangsia Tuesday, the same anniversary day as Uluwatu Temple’s.
Without a doubt, what makes Uluwatu Temple spectacular is its cliff-top setting at the edge of a plateau 250 feet above the waves of the Indian Ocean. ‘Ulu’ means the ‘top’ or the ‘tip’ and ‘watu’ means a ‘stone’ or a ‘rock’ in Balinese. Several archaeological remains found here prove the temple to be of megalithic origin, dating back to around the 10th century. There are two entrances to Uluwatu Temple, from the south and the north. A small forest lies at the front and hundreds of monkeys dwell here. They are believed to guard the temple from bad influences. The Balinese Hindus believe that the three divine powers of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva unite here. That belief results in making Uluwatu Temple a place of worship of Shiva Rudra, the Balinese Hindu deity of all elements and aspects of life in the universe. Pura Uluwatu is also dedicated to protect Bali from evil sea spirits. Inscriptions mention that Uluwatu Temple was instigated by Mpu Kunturan, a Majapahit monk who also participated in establishing several other important temples in Bali such as Pura Sakenan in Denpasar, about 1,000 years ago. A holy priest from eastern Java, Dhang Hyang Dwijendra, then chose Uluwatu Temple to be his spiritual journey’s final worshiping place. Balinese Hindu devotees believe that he reached the highest spiritual point of oneness with deities by a strike of lightning and completely disappeared. Legend, however, says that Dhang Hyang Dwijendra (also frequently referred to by name as Danghyang Nirartha) was the architect of Uluwatu Temple and several other temples in Bali, Lombok, as well as Sumbawa. Behind the main shrine in one of the courtyards of Uluwatu Temple lies a Brahmin statue facing the Indian Ocean, considered as a representation of Dhang Hyang Dwijendra. The two entrances to the temple area are split gates with leaves and flowers carvings. In front of each of them are a couple of sculptures shaped like a human body with an elephant head. A heritage of the 10th century is the one-piece winged stone gate to the inside courtyard of Pura Uluwatu. Winged gates are not commonly found on the island. An addition to Pura Uluwatu in the 16th century is Pura Dalem Jurit. There are three statues in it, one of them is of Brahma. There are two stone troughs in the temple area. If both of them are joined, they create a sarchopagus (Megalithic coffin). There hasn’t been any significant erosion on the shoreline underneath the temple’s towering cliff. Believers regard it as a manifestation of the divine power that protects Pura Uluwatu. Public facilities are available, but not in the temple area. Unlike some other tourist destinations in Bali, Uluwatu Temple area has limited amounts of hassling vendors. The best time to visit is just before sunset. A Kecak dance is performed everyday at the adjacent cliff-top stage at 18:00 to 19:00. Visitors are charged a nominal fee. What makes it the most favourite venue to watch a Kecak dance is the sunset background of the performance.
Lempuyang Temple, locally referred to as Pura Lempuyang Luhur, is one of Bali’s oldest and most highly regarded temples, on par with Besakih. It is also believed to predate the majority of Hindu temples on the island. Definitely a highlight on any travel itinerary for the fit and adventurous, the main temple lies at 1,175m above sea level, up on the peak of the namesake Mount Lempuyang in East Bali. The heights are reachable via a steep staircase of over 1,700 steps, with attractions along the way including several other temples and hordes of grey long-tailed macaques that inhabit the surrounding cool mountain forests. While avid hikers will love the blend of mountains and cultural excursions that Bali’s eastern region has to offer, those unwilling to take on the ascent up to the peak at Lempuyang Temple can still enjoy the splendid views at the grand Pura Penataran Agung temple at the foot of the mountain. The first to come into view on the pilgrimage, this temple offers an impressive sight with its towering dragon staircases – perfect for photos. The best views are higher up the stairs, where you can see all the way across the green forested slopes and neighbouring Mount Agung, Bali’s highest peak and abode of Besakih Temple. Nevertheless, the locals believe that pilgrims with a heavy heart will never make it to the top, hence the spiritual aspect of the climb. The locals strongly believe that besides maintaining respectful behaviour and speech, you shouldn’t complain on your way up – otherwise, you’ll never succeed reaching the main temple at the peak. Strong-willed pilgrims get to enjoy splendid panoramas of the eastern Bali mountain range and coastline step after steep step, surrounded by lush surroundings and fresh mountain air.
Batukaru Temple, referred to by locals as Pura Luhur Batukaru, is one of Bali’s key temples, located at the foot of Mount Batukaru. At an altitude of 2,270m above sea level on the second highest peak in Bali after Mount Agung, the temple is surrounded by cool natural forests, providing a pleasant sightseeing stopover for nature lovers. Moreover, the island’s most impressive expanse of rice paddies, Jatiluwih, is within a two-kilometre drive from the temple, making popular stopovers on excursions to Bali’s central highlands. The main structure of Batukaru Temple features a multitude of shrines with tiered roofs, and the complex is filled with ancient structures heavily covered in green moss. The walled compounds contain several shrines, as well as high ‘meru’ towers, and ‘bale’ pavilions with unmistakably ancient Balinese features, such as the dark grass roofs and intricate wall carvings. There are different courtyards inside the complex, sparsely positioned and on different elevations, connected through a series of flowering gardens and statue-lined steps. Within the main temple courtyard there is a freshwater spring that serves as the holy water source for prayers and ceremonies. Another separate spring serves cleansing and purification rituals. Mount Batukaru as a whole is considered a sacred site and the misty slopes of the heavily forested mountain enhances its spiritual vibe. The temple complex is frequented by visitors on any given day; however several parts of the temple’s inner sanctum remain off-limits to non-pilgrims. The temple is devoted to the Hindu god Mahadeva, considered the master of the air, water and plants. The 11th century Batukaru Temple shares the cool and quiet upland vicinity of the Wongaya Gede farming community in the Penebel Village of Tabanan regency. The best time to visit is during the temple’s biannual ‘piodalan’ temple anniversaries, which coincides each Thursday after the Galungan celebrations. Balinese families from adjacent villages in Wangaya Gede and from all over the island make pilgrimages to this mountain temple for blessings. A visit to the temple calls for proper attire and conduct. As with any Balinese temple visit, you must wear a sash around your waist, which are available for free at the security post before the temple entrance, and women during their periods are not allowed to the temple grounds.
Batur Temple, also known as Ulun Danu Batur Temple, is located in Kalanganyar, Batur village, Kintamani, approximately 900 meters above sea level. It is also known as the Temple of the Crater Lake, dedicated to the Lake Goddess Ida Batara Dewi Ulun Danu, and Tirta Empul, where run the holiest waters of Bali, believed to have magical curative powers. Batur Temple is the second largest temple in the island. Huge ceremony, called Ngusaba ke Dasa, is held here every year.In the past, Batur Temple was located on the south western slope of mount Batur. After the destructive eruption in 1917 which ruined the temple. Head of the village along with the villagers brought the surviving shrines and rebuilt Batur Temple to the higher place in Kalanganyar. In 1927, the people of Batur rebuilt Ulun Danu Temple which once lay at the foot of the volcano. Most of the 285 planned shrines are yet to be completed
Tanah Lot Temple
Tanah Lot Temple is one of Bali’s most important landmarks, famed for its unique offshore setting and sunset backdrops. An ancient Hindu shrine perched on top of an outcrop amidst constantly crashing waves; Tanah Lot Temple is simply among Bali’s not-to-be-missed icons. The onshore site is dotted with smaller shrines alongside visitors’ leisure facilities that comprise restaurants, shops and a cultural park presenting regular dance performances. The temple is located in the Beraban village of the Tabanan regency, an approximate 20km northwest of Kuta. The history of tanah lot begins Dang Hyang Nirartha (a high priest from the Majapahit Kingdom in East Java who travelled to Bali in 1489 to spread Hinduism) arrived at the beautiful area and established a site honouring the sea god, Baruna. Here, he shared his teachings to Beraban villagers, only to face opposition from the village chief who soon gathered his loyal followers to dispel Nirartha. The priest resisted, incredibly shifting a large rock he meditated upon out to sea while transforming his sashes into sea snakes to guard at its base. The rock’s original name, Tengah Lod, means ‘in the sea’. Acknowledging Nirartha’s powers, the humbled chief vowed allegiance. Before setting off, Nirartha gifted him a holy kris dagger, which is now among the sanctified heirlooms of the Kediri royal palace. Pilgrims bring these relics each Kuningan day by foot on an 11km pilgrimage to the Luhur Pakendungan temple, the priest’s former meditational site.
Ulundanu Beratan Temple
The Ulun Danu Beratan Temple is both a famous picturesque landmark and a significant temple complex located on the western side of the Beratan Lake in Bedugul, central Bali. The whole Bedugul area is actually a favorite cool upland weekend and holiday retreat for locals and island visitors alike from the southern and urban areas, as it is strategically located, connecting the island’s north and south. Ulun Danu Beratan, literally ‘the source temple of Lake Beratan’, is easily the island’s most iconic sanctuary sharing the scenic qualities with the seaside temples of Uluwatu and Tanah Lot. The smooth reflective surface of the lake surrounding most of the temple’s base creates a unique floating impression, while the mountain range of the Bedugul region encircling the lake provides the temple with a scenic backdrop. The temple was built in the 17th century in worship of the main Hindu trinity, Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, as well as the lake goddess, Dewi Danu. The sight and cool atmosphere of the Bali uplands have made the lake and this temple a favourite sightseeing and recreational spot as well as a frequently photographed site. The history of the Ulun Danu temple can be traced back to the rise of the Mengwi kingdom. The ‘floating’ temple complex is comprised of four groups of shrines, including the prominent Lingga Petak shrine to its east. There are four gates facing each of the four points of the compass. The second group is located in the west and pays homage to another temple in the hill of Puncak Mangu and is regarded as the symbol of soil fertility. The ‘puncak’ or hilltop of Mangu is northeast of Lake Beratan. Entering the temple gates, instantly noticeable are the typical Balinese architectural features and the tiered shrines. Inside the complex, the three main shrines are dedicated to the worship of god Vishnu which boasts 11 tiers, god Brahma with seven 7 tiers and Shiva with three tiers. As the temple complex occupies a rather low lying side of the lake, the floating effect is thus featured when the lake’s water levels rise. This is the time for the most perfect photo opportunities. Besides a silent witness and historical site of the golden days of the Mengwi kingdom, this temple complex is also home to a megalithic artifact in the form of a sarcophagus and stone tablet. This has led to the assumption that it was a consecrated site before the Hindu temple was built.
Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) Temple
Goa Gajah’s name is slightly misleading, lending the impression that it’s a gigantic dwelling full of elephants. Nevertheless, Goa Gajah ‘Elephant Cave’ is an archaeological site of significant historical value that makes it a special place to visit. Located on the cool western edge of Bedulu Village, six kilometres out of central Ubud, you do not need more than an hour to descend to its relic-filled courtyard and view the rock-wall carvings, a central meditational cave, bathing pools and fountains.
Goa Gajah dates back to the 11th century, built as a spiritual place for meditation. The main grounds are down a flight of steps from the roadside and parking area, which is lined with various art and souvenir shops and refreshment kiosks. Upon reaching the base you will come across a large ‘wantilan’ meeting hall and an assortment of large old stone carvings, some restored to their former full glory. The pool, excavated in 1954, features five out of supposedly seven statues depicting Hindu angels holding vases that act as waterspouts.
Various structures reveal Hindu influences dating back to the 10th century, and some relics feature elements of Buddhism dating even earlier to the 8th century. The cave is shallow; inside are three stone idols each wrapped in red, yellow and black cloths. Black soot lines the cave’s walls as result from the current-day incense burning. Several indentations show where meditating priests once sat. The northern side of the complex is dominantly Buddhist while south across the river it’s mostly Shivaite.
At the southern end are beautiful rice fields and small streams that lead to the Petanu River – another natural site entwined in local legends. Goa Gajah was built on a hillside and as two small streams met here forming a campuhan or ‘river junction’, the site was considered sacred and was built for hermetic meditation and prayers.
What’s in the name?
Even though the site’s name translates into ‘Elephant Cave’, you won’t find any pachyderms here. Various theories suggest the origin of the name, such as back in time the Petanu River was originally called ‘Lwa Gajah’, meaning the ‘River Gajah’, before it came to be called Petanu River. Other sources state that the ‘Gajah’ or elephant aspect came from the stone figure inside the cave depicting the Hindu lord Ganesh, who is characterised by an elephant’s head.
Ancient inscriptions also allude to the name Antakunjarapada, which roughly translates to ‘elephant’s border’. The cave’s entrance shows a menacing giant face with its wide open mouth as the door. Various motifs depicting the forest and animals are carved out of the outer rock face. The giant face was considered to be that of an elephant’s.
Gunung Kawi Sebatu Temple
Gunung Kawi Sebatu Temple, locally referred to as Pura Tirta Dawa Gunung Kawi Sebatu, is a special find for visitors to Central Bali. It is one of the least visited temple complexes on the island Bali, yet is one of the most beautiful and tranquil. It features verdant gardens around ponds filled with carp and blooming lotuses, and ancient shrines surrounded by crystal clear pools fed by natural springs. The temple complex is located within the highland village of Sebatu in Tegallalang, Gianyar, approximately 12km northeast from the main Ubud hub. Tickets are IDR 15,000 for adults and half for children. Approaching the temple from the main Jalan Raya Tegallalang road, a small and winding descent approaches the temple, where you can easily have a bird’s eye view of the whole complex and its water gardens. The temple is a refreshing stopover, profuse with water features, and one of the main highlights is the tranquil setting of one of its singular shrines known as the Taman Suci, which is next to a large rectangular pond with a dense green hillside as a backdrop – perfect for photographers to grab that picture-postcard shot. But before reaching the northwest corner where Taman Suci and the main Gunung Kawi Sebatu temple grounds are located, you will have to don the customary sash around your waist which you can borrow at the ticket booth. A few steps along the cobble path you will instantly enjoy a full water garden, a large pool where golden carp are kept. A figure of the goddess Sarasvati is its centrepiece, together with a ‘floating’ Wantilan hall from which you can feed the fish. Fish food is sold at a mere IDR 5,000. Beside the pool there are two walled bathing sections that the locals and pilgrims to Gunung Kawi Sebatu actually use for bathing. A sign clearly reads in English and Indonesian that photography in these quarters is forbidden – obviously! Towards the north and after a green lawn are the ‘candi bentar’ temple gates that lead to the elevated main temple grounds. You will be able to see a few animals kept within the complex, such as roaming free packs of tame fowl, juvenile deer and rare chicken breeds, which all add life to the otherwise inanimate statues and towering temple structures.
Sakenan Temple or ‘Pura Sakenan’ as referred to by locals, is an important temple in the southern region of Bali, perched on the north-western shore of Serangan Island, a small island located 10km south of Denpasar.
Once strong for its unique feature of pilgrimages during the 210-day piodalan temple anniversary celebrations with processions leading to the Serangan Island on foot or by traditional wooden boats, reclamations in the 90s have changed the ways, as well as the natural landscape of the island.
Sakenan Temple was built in the tenth century by high priest Mpu Kuturan, who arrived in Bali in 1001AD before the fall of the Majapahit Kingdom, on a mission to restructure the socio-religious aspects of the Balinese communities.
The temple is comprised of two significant areas, the largest having undergone renovation except for its antique walls around the temple grounds, and a smaller part that retains its olden features. The old temple was built of limestone and corals sourced from the surrounding coastal reefs.
Within and around the temple grounds are large and towering trees that are silent witnesses of the temple’s past. Given the infusion of dynamism in Balinese Hinduism, these trees are adorned with chequered cloths and are regarded as dwellings of guardian spirits of the temple grounds.
Hundreds of pilgrims from the various village temples in southern Denpasar flock to the Sakenan Temple for its 210-day piodalan temple anniversary celebrations which coincides with the holy day of Kuningan, 10 days after the Galungan celebrations, another major Balinese Hindu observation.
Before the reclamations that took place in the 90s pilgrims would carry ancient heirlooms and sacred temple objects at low tide by foot through mangrove forests towards Serangan. At high tide, traditional outriggers taxi the crowd over the waters. Now, the land mass is easily reachable by automobiles via a 110m bridge, making the colourful and unique boat rides memories of the past.
Upon arrival, devotees proceed towards the Pura Susunan Wadon, a temple separate from the main Sakenan Temple grounds, located an approximate half kilometre to the east. Then prayers continue at the Pura Susunan Agung, and then the Pura Dalem Sakenan close to the westernmost shore of Serangan Island.
Good to Know about Sakenan Temple
Sakenan Temple Bali – Pura Sakenan
Pujawali or the grand celebrations and the piodalan or temple anniversary of Sakenan Temple falls on every Kliwon Kuningan Saturday, the day of the Kuningan observation in the Balinese 210-day Pawukon calendar and is held over three days with the height of the revelries on the Sunday. Access to the Sakenan Temple and the Serangan Island is easy via the bridge. However during the three-day temple celebrations, entrance fees apply to both pilgrims and visitors on cars and motorcycles. Fees range from IDR 2,000-5,000 and are collected by the village officials for the community’s fund.
Several exceptional ritual dances are performed during the height of the piodalan celebrations, usually over the Kuningan weekend. These range from Barong dances to various Tari Topeng or mask dances, and all provide rare, spur-of-the-moment photo opportunities. As with any Bali temple visit, you may enter in proper temple attire, that is, a simple sarong and waist sash. Try to walk around offerings placed on the ground instead of stepping over them. Try not to obstruct a line of procession in progress. Also, women must remember not to enter temples during their periods.
Tirta Empul Temple
Tirta Empul is an important temple complex and holy mountain spring, located in the village of Manukaya in central Bali. The site serves as a legendary setting of a traditional tale about good versus evil. It is also a national cultural heritage site.
The complex, built circa 960 AD, is also a silent witness to the old Balinese kingdom years, particularly at the time of the Warmadewa Dynasty. Another nearby and prominent site on top of a hill is the presidential palace, Istana Tampaksiring, built during the years of the nation’s first president, Soekarno.
Tirta Empul, meaning ‘holy water spring’ is actually the name of a water source located within the temple. The spring feeds various purification baths, pools and fish ponds surrounding the outer perimeter, which all flow to the Tukad Pakerisan River. Various sites throughout the region and many other archaeological relics relate to local myths and legends.
As is common with Balinese temples, the Tirta Empul Temple complex has three key divisions, namely a front, secondary and inner courtyard. Visitors to Tirta Empul first come upon the lush gardens and pathways adorned with statues and tropical plants that lead to its entrance. After stepping through this typical ‘candi bentar’ (temple gate), a vast walled courtyard welcomes visitors to the bathing pools where a large ‘wantilan’ meeting hall stands at the right.
Inside the central courtyard, referred to as ‘madya mandala’ or ‘jaba tengah’, pilgrims first approach a rectangular purification bath where a total of 13 elaborately sculpted spouts that line the edge from west to east. After solemn prayers at an altar-like shrine, they proceed to enter the crystal-clear, cold mountain water. With hands pressed together, they bow under the gushing water of the first spout, carrying on to the eleventh. The water from the last two of the 13 spouts is meant for purification purposes in funerary rites.
The myth behind the curative and purifying spring tells of a Balinese ruler, known by the title Mayadenawa, who is depicted to have defied the influence of Hinduism and denied his subjects religious prayers and practices. The legend goes that this eventually angered the gods, and in a campaign, god Indra sought Mayadenawa’s subdual.
Tirta Empul Temple Highlights
Tirta Empul Temple
The hide-and-seek tactics of Mayadenawa fleeing Indra’s troops took place at various places all over the region, from the rivers Petanu to Pakerisan, and up to the north of Tampaksiring. Hence, the names of the sites and natural features all reflect an episode from the tale, such as Tampaksiring – tampak meaning ‘feet’, and siring meaning ‘sideways’, depicting an episode when the fleeing king left his footprints up the hill.
It was here that through his magical powers Mayadenawa created a poisoned spring from which Indra’s exhausted troops drank and succumbed. Indra noticed the fall of his men, and soon thrust his staff into the ground where a holy purifying spring spurted out, to cure the troops and to even bring some of them back to life. This escapade became the legendary background to the holy spring of Tirta Empul, as well as the holy days of Galungan and Kuningan celebrated by the Balinese Hindus.
Good to Know about Tirta Empul Temple
Tirta Empul Temple in Tampaksiring
As with any Bali temple tour or a visit to a holy place, it is always important to dress respectfully. The simple Balinese temple visitor dress code is a traditional ‘kamen’ wrap around the lower body plus a sash around the waist. Women during their periods are prohibited entry to any temple or sacred site, and may enjoy the sights and attractions in the outer perimeters only.
It is tempting to try out the purification bathing ritual yourself; however the formal routine is strictly meant for pilgrims and devotees. You might want to consult your guide who may ask a temple authority for further details.
Far at the front of the temple complex is a large parking area with its eastern side lined with art markets and rows of shops selling various curios and souvenirs. There are also several warungs or food stalls selling local food, snacks and refreshments.
Taman Ayun Temple
Taman Ayun Temple is a landmark in the village of Mengwi, Badung regency, located 17km northwest of Denpasar. This temple complex boasts magnificent traditional architectural features throughout its courtyards and enclosures as well as expansive garden landscapes comprised of lotus and fish ponds.
The temple was built circa 1634 by the then ruler of the Mengwi kingdom, Tjokerda Sakti Blambangan, with Chinese architectural inspirations, and underwent a significant restoration project in 1937. Towering tiers from the temple shrines make up most of the profile of Taman Ayun and are a gesture of the people of Mengwi’s reverence to their deified noble ancestors, for the temple complex is considered the ‘mother temple’ of Mengwi.
The Taman Ayun Temple was to serve as a main site of worship among the Mengwi people who need not travel too far to the main large temples, the likes of the Besakih ‘mother temple’ in Karangasem, Batukaru Temple in Tabanan, or Batur Temple in Kintamani. It also served as a unifying symbol among the Mengwi royalty and the people.
The Taman Ayun Temple complex comprises four different divisions, one ranking higher than the other. The first is referred to as the ‘Jaba’ or outer division, accessible only through a single entrance and walkway over the ponds. Inside, near the entrance is a small guardian shrine and on the right is a large ‘wantilan’ hall where the communal gatherings take place. A tall fountain with spouts jutting up and out to the cardinal directions can be seen in this area.
Onto the next court, a small temple compound by the name of Pura Luhuring Purnama can be seen. The second and third terraces are slightly higher than the first. To enter, visitors must go through a second gate where a shelter called Bale Pengubengan greets them with ornamental features that depict the nine Hindu gods that guard the nine points of the compass, referred to as Dewata Nawa Sanga. East of this court is a small temple called Pura Dalem Bekak, while in its western corner is an eight metre-high wooden bell tower known to locals as ‘Bale Kulkul’. A climb up will reveal two hanging rectangular wooden bells, plus a high and spectacular view of the whole complex.
Taman Ayun Temple Hightlights
The fourth and last court is considered the most sacred, thus ranks the highest. It is referred to as the Utama Mandala. The intricately ornate central gate is open only during ceremonies, as the entryway for consecrated heirlooms and other ceremonial paraphernalia. Another gate at its east is for daily access. Several tiers of different outlines and sizes rise up into the temple’s skyline.
The temple’s three grounds denote the three cosmological levels known to Balinese Hinduism, namely the world of man, the realm of gods and deities, and the topmost divine level. As recounted in the ancient texts of the ‘Adhiparwa’, the whole complex of the Taman Ayun Temple represents Mount Mahameru in the so-called ‘churning of the sea of milk’ or the cosmic formation of the world.
The name ‘Taman Ayun’ translates as ‘beautiful garden’. The vast encircling pools were once royal recreational places for the palace maids who would sail small canoes. Now the pools and ponds are fenced and visitors are denied entrance.
Good to Know about Taman Ayun Temple
Entrance fee to the Taman Ayun Temple is a modest Rp. 3,000-4,000. The temple shares the same anniversary day of the cliff-perched Uluwatu Temple on the island’s southern Bukit peninsula, which is celebrated on the 210-day Balinese Pawukon calendar system or on every ‘Kliwon Medangsia’ Tuesday. The ‘piodalan’ temple anniversary celebrations see pilgrims flock to the temple complex, day and night.
A trip to the Taman Ayun Temple complex is usually an included itinerary for long journeys up to the central or northern Bali regions. It is particularly a frequent stopover for visitors who opt to spend time up in Bedugul, as the site is conveniently en route from southern Bali.
It is a great place to marvel at the early and traditional Balinese architectural features that prevail on the island. Although the pools are far from what can be imagined during its days of glory in the distant past, the moss-lined walls and jade algae-filled water add to the rustic charm of the whole scenery of this over three centuries-old temple site.
North of the bell tower is a pavilion called Bale Loji. In old times, this was where priests and ceremonial attendants would make preparations and take a break. Nowadays, artists can be seen here busy at their art-in-the-making. Paintings are also available here for purchase.
Museum Manusa Yadnya is located just across the road from the temple site. The museum showcases Balinese Hinduism rituals and human rites of passage, throughout their stages of life. It is an often convenient and additional highlight on each visit to Taman Ayun.
Penataran Sasih Temple
Pura Penataran Sasih is situated six kilometres northwest of Gianyar and two kilometres north of Pejeng. It is also known as ‘The Moon Temple’ and derived its name from an ancient bronze kettle drum (or nekara) called ‘Moon of Pejeng’ which is now kept in its inner chamber. It is the largest bronze kettle in Southeast Asia at about two metres in length and allegedly dates from 300 BC. The design is associated with the Dong Son culture of Southern China and Northern Vietnam of around 1500 BC. This highly valued and ornate gong is in the shape of an hourglass and is beautifully engraved: it is regarded as Indonesia’s most important Bronze-Age antique.
Samuan Tiga Temple
Samuan Tiga Temple is strategically located set back a little from the main road between Ubud and Tampaksiring, and used to be one of the most popular tourist destinations. This sacred temple was the royal temple of the Udayana Warmadewa dynasty (a Balinese King who ruled in the 10th century). Samuan Tiga means three (tiga) meetings (samuan) and the temple is assumed to be the venue for the great meeting between Gods, deities and saints.
Pura Samuan Tiga offers unique architecture and a stunning view, flanked by two rivers, the Pande and Tegending, on the east side and the remains of an ancient pool on the west side, with sacred Banyan, Pule and Curiga trees growing around the site. The temple has seven courtyards separated by walls and split gates, but connected by stairs leading up to the innermost courtyard, believed to be the meeting hall of three holy spirits.
This stunning architecture and history provides the annual stage for the oldest Balinese Hindu ritual. Siat Sampian (sampian wars) takes place during the 10th full moon (in Balinese called Purnama Kadasa, it falls every April) and normally lasts from 06:00 to approximately 13:00. The ‘war’ is performed by over 200 males and dozens of females, who attack each other using young-coconut leaf arrangements called sampian. Make sure you don’t miss this unique amazing ritual while you’re here for holiday in April.
Pura Blanjong was built as a cenotaph of Sri Kesari Warmadewa and commemorates his journey to the east. Sri Kesari himself was a Syailendra descendant (a Buddhist-ruled dynasty which ruled Java) and the founder of an architectural wonder, Borobudur Temple. According to the Blanjong inscription dated 914 A.D. Sri Kesari was a Buddhist apostle who soon established a Mahayana convent at Blanjong village. Along with the inscription, 15 metres northwest, is a Ganesha statue (the elephant-headed son of Shiva). Pura Blanjong is characterised by its coral instead of brick wall and twin sitting calf statues inside, sadly from which both heads have been removed. Apart from being one of the most sacred temples, Pura Blanjong shows you things of architectural and archeological interest.
Although Pura Petitenget (found at the T-junction on Jalan Petitenget) is not as big and as popular as Bali’s other major temples of Pura Besakih, Pura Uluwatu and Pura Ulun Danu, it is famous for its legend. This temple is believed by Hindus to be one of nine pillars known as ‘Kayangan Jagat’, temples of nine wind eyes built in the 11th Century by Empu Kuturan (a Javanese Sage) who came to Bali bringing religious law and the formation of traditional villages.
The nine eyes are also believed to protect the island from southward threats through their intricate positioning. Another story relates that Pura Petitenget is known as the Temple of the Secret Box – a name inherited when a holy man from Java arrived in Bali intending to teach the Balinese community about good manners. He brought a box and accidentally left it behind when he returned to Java. The Balinese people, in fearfulness of the holy man, dared neither to touch nor open it, and so decided to build a temple around it. It’s your choice to either believe it or not, but be sure to stop by this temple on special occasions and holy days: you’ll witness a spectacular ceremony here.
Kehen Temple, one of ancient temples in Bali, is located at the south of Bangli in Cempaga village, about 43km from Denpasar. It was built by Sri Bhatara Guru Adikunti Ketana who reigned Bangli kingdom in the 12th century in a terraced mountain sanctuary. The people of Bangli believe that Kehen Temple is the largest and the most sacred temple of the region and regard it as the state temple of Bangli.
This temple is worshipped by people around the village. The ceremony takes place on Rabu Kliwon Shinta where Ngusaba ritual is held one in a three years period, which is on fifth Purnama around November.
Kehen Temple offers an authentic Balinese temple atmosphere. It has three courtyards connected by steps, and is decorated with carvings and statues. In the first courtyard is a huge Banyan tree, surrounded by walls inlaid with Chinese porcelain. In the next courtyard, multi-roofed shrines (merus) dominate the area. On the right side of this inner courtyard are three throne shrines representing the Hindu Trinity, Brahma, Wisnu and Siwa.
Besides its magnificent panorama, Kehen Temple has a variety of ancient manuscripts. There is a manuscript about the slaughter of a black bull during a feast held in the temple in the year 1204.
At the foot of the stairway is an old temple, which has a collection of historical manuscripts inscribed on bronze plates. Statues, carved in a shadow puppet style, line the first terrace from which steps lead to the most important gate (the Great Exit). Like other split gates found in all Balinese temples, above the gate looms the hideous face and splayed hands of Kala Makara. This terrifying creature symbolizes the demonic one who catches harmful spirits and prevents them from entering the sacred space. On the other side of this area is a statue of a villager gesturing a welcome to visitors.
Bukit Penulisan (Penulisan hill) is located at 1745m above sea level, approximately 3km from Kintamani, or 30km from the capital city of Bangli. Bukit Penulisan is also called Bukit Tunggal because its site is separated from mountain range stretches along from west to east of Bali.
Around 9th century, Tegeh Koripan Temple was built on Bukit Penulisan. It is also known as Puncak Penulisan Temple since it is located on the peak of Bukit Penulisan.
An old stairway leads to Puncak Penulisan Temple, the ancient temple as well as the highest temple in the island. During a clear day, the view is breathtaking. The temple is even more romantic and mysterious when covered in a foggy mist.
Pulaki Temple is located in Bayupoh Village, about 53km west of Singaraja. It is situated on a hill that is about 25m from the beach. This temple is inhabited by monkeys which are considered as the descendants of Dewa (Gods).
Pulaki Temple is one of the Sad Kahyangan Temples (the main temples) in Bali. There are also Pabena Temple and Pemuteran Temple which is well-known for its hot water nearby.
Rambut Siwi Temple
Rambut Siwi Temple is located on the top of a cliff, overlooking a breathtaking view of paddy fields on one side and the black sandy beach on the other.
This spot is a favorite hangout for painters. The temple itself was built by Dang Hyang Nirartha. Legend has it that he dedicated his hair to the temple. Therefore, the temple is known as Rambut Siwi which literally means ‘hair worship’.