PURA BESAKIH COMPLEX
PURA BESAKIH COMPLEX
The Pura Besakih Complex, also known as the ‘Mother Temple of Bali’, holds great significance in the Hindu religion of Bali. It is the largest and holiest temple on the island and a place of special pilgrimage for the Balinese people, who believe that their ancestors’ spirits reside there. Spread across 3 square kilometers on the slopes of Mount Agung, this grand complex comprises 23 distinct yet interconnected temples. Each temple within the complex serves a different purpose and holds a unique status.
The precise origins of the temple complex remain unclear; however, its significance as a sacred site likely dates back to ancient times. In the late 8th century, the Javanese sage Rsi Markandaya initiated the construction of homes in this area, gradually adding shrines over time. By the 14th century, Pura Besakih had transformed into a prominent temple complex. It underwent significant restoration projects in the 20th century after an earthquake in 1917 resulted in the destruction of all but two shrines. Additionally, during the eruption on Mont Agung in 1963, the temple complex narrowly escaped the lava flows, coming within meters of its boundaries. The preservation of the temple is considered a miraculous sign by the Balinese people, demonstrating the gods’ desire to showcase their power without harming the sacred place devotedly built in their honor.
The Pura Besakih Complex features three temples devoted to the Hindu trinity: Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu. The central temple, Pura Penataran Agung [Great Temple of State], is dedicated to Shiva, the destroyer. It serves as the spiritual nucleus of the Besakih complex. The terraces at the temple’s entrance resemble Indonesian stepped pyramids. The entrance stairway, adorned with intricately carved figures from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, is exclusively accessible to worshipers. Visitors can observe the temple by walking along footpaths and peering over the low surrounding walls. On the right side stands Pura Kiduling Kreteg [Temple South of the Bridge], dedicated to Brahma, the creator. Here, the ‘Aci Ceremony’ takes place, a plea for global happiness. On the left side stands Pura Batu Madeg [Temple South of the Standing Stone], dedicated to Vishnu, the preserver. A stone within this temple serves as a testament to the ancient origins of the region’s religious practices.
Behind Pura Penataran Agung, it is worth climbing further up the mountain towards Pura Gelap [Temple of Lightning and Thunder]. This temple offers an impressive sight with its majestic dragon staircase that reaches skyward. Moreover, it offers awe-inspiring vistas of the temple complex and its striking surroundings.
Know Before You Go
You must wear a sarong and sash for visiting the temples.