Pura Besakih, Mother Temple of Bali

The volcanic Mount Agung (Gunung Agung) is holiest mountain on the island of Bali in Indonesia. It is also home to the important Mother Temple of Besakih, the largest and holiest temple in Bali. Rising majestically on the western slopes of Mount Agung, and referred to as the Mother Temple of Hindu Bali, is Pura Besakih, or the Besakih temple, covering  a vast area that offers  breathtaking mountain scenery surrounding this beautiful and artistic temple complex.

Facing Mt. Agung’s highest peak, believed to be the abode of the gods, and located at an altitude of 900 meters, Pura Besakih is built in the village of Besakih, in the eastern part of Bali. The name Besakih comes from the word “Basuki”, derived from the word “Wasuki” which means Salvation in the classical Sanskrit language. Whereas, in the Samudramanthana mythology, the same name “Besuki” in fact refers to the Dragon-God “Naga Besukian”, who inhabited Gunung Agung, the main volcano in Bali.

This grand temple complex has been revered as a holy place since ancient times. The first recorded mention of its existence comes from an inscription dating back to 1007 AD. It is known that since the 15th century Besakih was regarded as the central temple of Hinduism in Bali. This complex expresses the essential belief of the Balinese known as Tri Hita Kirana, meaning that life on earth must be lived and kept in balance and harmony between man and God, man and society and his fellow human beings, and man and his natural environment.

Stairs ascend through a monumental split gate to the courtyard of the main temple, Pura Panataran Agung, where the central shrine dedicated to the Hindu trinity of Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu is wrapped in cloth and decorated with flower offerings.

Two other important temples further up the slope join with the Pura Panataran Agung to symbolize the Hindu trinity: the Pura Panataran Agung in the center flies white banners for Shiva, Pura Kiduling Kreteg to the right flies red banners for Brahma; and Pura Batu Mddeg, on the left, has black banners for Vishnu.

There are many other temples to explore at Besakih, but many of their inner courtyards are reserved for worship and closed to visitors. During a full moon, Balinese and pilgrims throng to the temple. During the festival of Odalan, the temple is most elaborately decorated. Odalan is celebrated on every 210th day.

How to Get There

This temple is very easy to find, as most people know it as one of the best tourist destinations in Bali. There are several starting points that you may choose to take: From Kuta, it takes about 2 hours to get here.  If you come from the north of Denpasar, it is about 25 kilometers to reach Besakih by car. However, if you stay in the eastern part of Bali such as at Tirta Gangga, Candidasa, or Amed, you can reach Besakih by taking a smaller inland road from Karangasem. This will lead you to the crossroad between Besakih and Klungkung at Rendang, and then turn right to reach Besakih Temple.During your hour-long drive, you will enjoy beautiful views traveling through  forests, villages, and rice fields. If you are willing to make a short stop in one of the villages, you will see how the locals live, and learn a bit about their unique houses.

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