It is said that in Bali, there are more temples than there are houses. Some estimates are even as high as 50,000. While this may be hard to believe at first, it doesn’t take much time on the island to notice that temples are everywhere and of course each family compound in Bali has its own temple.
A Pura is a Balinese Hindu Temple. Temples are divided into three spaces: an outer courtyard in addition to two holier inner yards. Each temple also has spaces of worship for Hinduism’s three prominent deities: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva also known as Trimurti. The divine trinity is also sometimes represented by color, with red standing for Brahma, black for Vishnu and white for Shiva.
Among the tens of thousands of temples in Bali, there are nine particular temples which are considered to be most important. The Balinese consider these special temples to help balance out the forces of the entire island.
Considering how unique Balinese temples are, learning a little bit about their symbolism and architectural features beforehand can greatly enhance the experience.
Types of Pura
- Pura kahyangan jagad – Pura that are located in the mountainous region of the island, built upon mountain or volcano slopes. The mountains are considered as the sacred magical and haunted realm, the abode of Gods. Eg: Besakih Temple.
- Pura Tirta – Also known as ‘Water Temples’. Eg: Pura Ulun Danu Bratan and Pura Tirta Empul.
- Pura Desa – A type of Pura dedicated to worship Lord Brahma
- Pura Puseh – A type of temple dedicated to worship Lord Vishnu
- Pura Dalem – Also known as ‘The temple of the dead’, is a Pura dedicated to worship Lord Shiva or other or related deities like Kali, Durga, or even Rangda. These destructive forces are considered necessary for dissolving impurities and evil entities
- Pura Mrajapti – A type of pura to worship prajapati (the lord of people). Most often, in this temple Shiva is worshiped in his form as prajapati.
- Pura Segara – Also know as ‘Sea temples’, pura that are located by the sea to appease the sea Gods and deities. Eg: Tanah Lot Temple, Uluwatu Temple
Types of Structures
- Temple Gates:
A. Paduraksa/Kori Agung – Most temples also contain inner gates known as paduraksa or kori agung. These gates separate the different areas within a temple. Unlike the candi bentar,these gates are not split into two. Furthermore, you’re likely to find the face of Bhoma, the Balinese Jungle God. While the creature may look fierce, he merely acts as a protector, scaring the evil spirits away from entering the holier parts of the temple.
B. Candi Bentar – As you approach a temple, the first thing you’ll notice is the candi bentar, or split gateway. These gates resemble a mountain that was split into two exactly even parts. Mt. Meru is a mythological mountain where the gods dwell. The Balinese believe that the original Mt. Meru, located somewhere on the Indian subcontinent, was transported to Bali by Shiva, where it was then split into two.The two sides also represent the Balinese concept of duality and the importance of maintaining a balance between dark and light forces
2. Other Structures:
A. Meru – These are situated in the holiest and innermost jero section of a temple. These towers also symbolize Mt. Meru and are even simply referred to as meru. The number of tatched roofs differ in different temples. It is said that a Balinese temple’s importance can be determined by the height of its highest meru. Different towers may be dedicated to different gods, or sometimes even individuals or local mountains.
B. Bale Kulkul – A bale kulkul is a special tower housing a drum. The drum is used to call participants for village meetings or announce deaths, among other things. During special ceremonies, when gods or spirits are believed to descend down upon the temple complex, the kulkul might be banged on to announce the deity’s arrival.
C. Padmasana – The supreme god of Balinese Hindu is known as Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa. This deity is so beyond normal human comprehension that it cannot be symbolized by a single statue or painting. Considering how visual and symbolic Balinese culture is, how do they go about representing something which can hardly be comprehended? They use what’s referred to as a padmasana, or an empty throne on which the formless Widhi Wasa is said to sit. The padmasana is unique to Bali and you won’t find it in other Hindu countries.
Do’s and Dont’s of Balinese Temple
- Both men and women should wear clothes past the knee and shoulders covered.
- A long sarong to be worn around your waist is mandatory.
- Take off shoes before entering a temple.
- Pay respect to both the praying pilgrims and the sites.
- Don’t enter a temple if you are bleeding( menstruating or if you have cut yourself)
- Don’t point your feet towards the shrines.
- Don’t stand higher than the priest.
Temples to visit
- Tanah Lot temple – Located about 20km northwest of Kuta, the seaside Tanah Lot Temple is one of Bali’s holiest temples and one of its most iconic landmarks. This beautiful temple and the calming, repetitive sound of lapping waves came together as a gentle melody casting a spell of serene tranquility over the mesmerizing scene.
2. Uluwatu Temple – Pura Uluwatu is located at the southern tip of the island, at the edge of the Bukit Badung peninsula. The temple’s true origins remain somewhat of a mystery, but it’s estimated to be at least 1,000 years old. Uluwatu’s stunning cliff-side scenery is the main attraction over the temple itself such as The rythemic percussion of waves and the saline air with the shimmering blue waters that sparkled in the presence of the sunlight. The area is especially popular at sunset and it’s one of the best places to see “monkey chant” Kecak performance.
3. Pura Ulun Danu Bratan – Featured on the Indonesian 50,000 rupiah note, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is one of the most unique and picturesque temples in Bali. The most notable feature of the temple would have to be its towering 11-tiered meru in the middle of the lake, which from a distance appears to be floating. Located in Lake Beratan (or Bratan) in the mountainous region of Bedugal, this temple dates back to the 17th century and is where locals come to pray to the water goddess Dewi Danu. The tall meru, on the other hand, is dedicated to Shiva.
4. Besakih Temple – Besakih Temple is often referred to as Bali’s ‘mother temple’ – a grand complex of at least 86 clan temples and shrines and is over 1,000 years, sits 1,000 metres high on the southwestern slopes of Mount Agung. Sarongs and sashes are available for rent. You can also purchase them at the many stalls outside. The scenery from there is jaw-dropping. The colors of the sky blended perfectly with the colors of the scenery.It’s ineffable beauty was like a masterpiece painted by Picasso that came to life, lying right in front of my eyes.
Bali is a place where you get to see mesmerizing views of temples and gives you the opportunity to witness the culture and dive deep into the history. All the spectacular architecture and structure of the Balinese temples will leave you in deep thought of the architecture was so advanced even 1000 years back.