Bangli Besakih Temple

Written by on June 10, 2012 in Bali Temple with 0 Comments

Bangli Besakih Temple







Besakih Temple has been known as Bali’s ‘Mother Temple’ for over 1,000 years and is perched 1,000 metres high on the southwestern slopes of Mount Agung. Besakih is an artistic and unique complex that consists of at least 86 temples which include the main Pura Penataran Agung (the Great Temple of State), as well as 18 others.

Besakih is the biggest and holiest amongst the temples on the island and is surrounded by breathtaking and scenic rice paddies, hills, mountains, streams, and much more. It is said to be where the very first revelation from Balinese Hindu’s God, Hyang Rsi Markendya, was received.

Besakih Temple Overview


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 many temples that vary according to types, status, and functions.

Pura Besakih features three temples dedicated to the Hindu trinity. Pura Penataran Agung in the centre has white banners for Shiva, the destroyer; Pura Kiduling Kreteg on the right side is with red banners for Brahma, the creator; and Pura Batu Madeg represents Vishnu, the preserver, with its black banners. Several other temples in Pura Besakih can be visited, but many of their inner courtyards are closed to the public as they’re reserved for worshippers.

Pura Besakih is said to be the only temple open to every devotee from any caste groups. It is because of its nature as the primal centre of all activities such as ceremonies, renovations, and more. The philosophical meaning the complex holds combines elements of education, technology, living tools, social lives, livelihoods, linguistic systems, arts, and religion. The complex also expresses Balinese Hindu’s essential belief that life on earth must be kept in balance and harmony between man and God, man and society, as well as man and his natural environment.

History of Besakih Temple

  Pura Batu Madeg, containing a central stone, indicates that the area of Pura Besakih had been regarded as a holy place since long before recorded history. It all started in the 8th century, when a Hindustani monk received a revelation to create homes for people during his isolation. Throughout the process, many of his followers died due to illness and accidents. On its completion it was called ‘Basuki’, referring to the dragon deity ‘Naga Besukian’ who inhabited Mount Agung. The name ‘Besakih’ eventually evolved from it.

Other shrines were gradually built and Pura Besakih was made the main temple during the conquering of Bali by the Majapahit Empire in 1343. Since then, Pura Besakih has had several restorations as earthquakes in 1917 and Mount Agung’s series of eruptions in 1963 damaged the complex. The lava flow passed by Pura Besakih mere metres from it and it is believed to be a miraculous signal from the deities that they wanted to demonstrate their power without completely destroying the holy complex their devotees had built for them to reside.

Besakih Temple Highlights and Features

  The biggest temple in the complex, Pura Penataran Agung, has different areas representing seven layers of the universe, each with their own shrine. From Pura Pasimpangan on the downstream side (on the east of the main street) to Pura Pangubengan upstream, the distance is approximately three kilometres.

Located on higher ground, the closest to the top of Mount Agung, Pura Pangubengan has great vistas and it’s about a 30-minute walk from the main Pura Penataran Agung. About 10 minutes to the east of Pura Pangubengan is Pura Batu Tirtha. It is the place of the holy water used in ‘karya agung’ ceremonies at Pura Besakih and Pekraman villages.

Four temples in the complex reflect four forms of God at compass points: Pura Batu Madeg in the north, Pura Kiduling Kreteg to the south, Pura Gelap in the east, and Pura Ulun Kulkul in the west. ‘Batu ngadeg’, meaning ‘a standing stone’, is found in the shrine of Meru Tumpang Sebelas in Pura Batu Madeg. This is where Vishnu is manifested. Still in the courtyard of Pura Batu Madeg, in front of Meru Tumpang Sebelas is the Pesamuan shrine (a quadrangle shape with two lines of 16 poles) as a symbol of how Vishnu’s power co-mingles with the world.

At least 20 minutes to the northwest from Pura Batu Madeg, down the footpath to the valley and along the river, is Pura Peninjoan – erected on a tiny hill. The beautiful views from here include all the shrines of Pura Penataran Agung, beaches and southern Bali. On the west is Pura Ulun Kulkul, famous for the main and most precious ‘kulkul’ (Balinese wooden slit gong) on the island. Kulkul is a communication device to summon or convey special messages to Balinese Hindu devotees.

On the northern side of Pura Ulun Kulkul is Pura Merajan Selonding where the ‘Bredah’ inscription mentions a king in Besakih, and a set of ancient gamelan called ‘Selonding’ are kept. Pura Gua, located on the eastern side of the main street, is the home of the Dragon deity. There’s a big cave at the canyon of the river on the east that has its mouth closed due to erosion, but people still sometimes practise yoga in front of it.

Pura Jenggala, southwest of Pura Penataran Agung, is also often called Pura Hyang Haluh by the local devotees. The ‘Setra Agung’, burial grounds, south of the temple, is the reason for its second name. Here, you can find sacred ancient stone statues in the garuda shape, and more.Pura Basukian Puseh Jagat is located to the southeast of Pura Penataran Agung. It was the foundation of Pura Besakih’s existence.

Good to Know about Besakih Temple


Pura Besakih was nominated as a World Heritage Site in around 1995, but as yet remains unvested. There are at least 70 ceremonies or religious celebrations held each year here, as each shrine has its own anniversary, plus the big holidays based on the 210-day Balinese Hindu calendar system.

Pura Basukihan, Pura Penataran Agung, and Pura Dalem Puri are the mother of all village’ temples of all Pura Puseh, Pura Desa, and Pura Dalem. Their shrines contain religious literature referring how to build a temple.

During the daytime Besakih can become a crowded tourist trap, with self-created ‘temple guardians’, touts, hawkers, and more. Bear in mind that you should wear a proper top, a sarong, and a sash.

The best visiting times of the day are in the early morning and in the evening as the complex is much quieter during those hours. The official guides are easily identifiable with their symmetrically patterned traditional Batik shirts. The service is not free, though not expensive at all either considering how big the complex is. You are, however, not obliged to hire a ‘temple guardian’ for a tour around the complex.

If you are invited for a blessing then a donation will be expected. Skimpy clothes are not advised and sarong as well as sash can be rented. They’re also available for purchase outside, but bargaining is recommended. Women on their period are forbidden to enter the temple complex. Don’t forget to change money in more urban areas as the rates here are not so good.

Opening Hours: 08:00 – 17:00, but it is actually open 24 hours as it is a place of worship
Location: in Besakih Village, Rendang Sub-district, Karangasem District
Remarks: Taking along local companions outside the official hours is highly recommended
How to get there: From Sanur, take the Kusamba Bypass to Klungkung. Head north through Klungkung and take the right-hand turn at Menanga to get to Besakih. The journey from Sanur shouldn’t take longer than two-and-a-half hours.

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