The intricate architecture and terraced towers in the lush setting of the Besakih Temple complex in Bali are a sight to behold. Perched on the side of the stratovolcano Gunung Agung, the 23 related temples in the complex offer plenty to explore, with sights everyone is sure to enjoy.
Balinese Hindus worship at puras, or open-air places of worship within walls and interconnected with decorated gates. Bali has so many puras it has earned the nickname of ‘Island of a Thousand Puras’. Make sure you visit Pura Besakih, also known as the ‘Mother Temple’, which is considered the most sacred on the island. Standing at about 1,000 metres above sea level, the views stretching over rice paddies and mountains all the way down to the coast are breathtaking.
Pura Besakih includes three puras dedicated to the Hindu holy trinity – Pura Penataran Agung in the centre has white banners for Shiva, the destroyer; Pura Kidding Kreteg has red for Brahma, the creator; and Pura Batu Madeg has black for Vishnu, the preserver.
Four temples also represent God at the four points of the compass: Pura Batu Madeg to the north, Pura Kiduling Kreteg to the south, Pura Gelap to the east and Pura Ulun Kulkul to the west.
Be sure to see the largest and most important temple in the complex – Pura Penataran Agung – which is built over six levels terraced up the slope. Its stone base dates back 2,000 years and it is now called the ‘Great Temple of State’, with areas depicting the seven layers of the universe.
Besakih Temple was named a World Heritage Site in 1995, so expect to encounter plenty of visitors. Try to arrive early in the morning or in the evening if you want to avoid the crowds, and wear comfortable shoes. Visitors are required to be dressed decently, but sarongs and sashes are provided outside the temple should you need them.
With over 70 different annual festivals occurring during the 210-day Balinese calendar year and celebrated at temples nationwide, Besakih is a happening place. Some temples may be closed to the public during the festivities, but the additional decorations are a sight worth seeing.