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Travel Up Bali’s Mount Agung and Discover Besakih Temple, Bali’s Most Important Hindu Sanctuary

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Besakih Temple (otherwise known as Pura Besakih or the Mother Temple of Besakih) is Bali’s biggest and most important Hindu temple sanctuary.  It is in Besakih Village on the southwestern slopes of Mount Agung, an active volcano.  Its mountainous location offers visitors beautiful views of the surrounding area and the distant ocean.

Some of the temples are believed to be over a thousand years old.  The temple complex consists of 22 temples scattered across parallel ridges in an area about three square kilometers.  There are terraces and stairs which ascend to numerous courtyards and gateways that leads up to the main spire.  This design serves two purposes.  First, it represents one’s climb up Mount Meru, a sacred mountain in Hindu cosmology considered to be the center of all the physical, metaphysical and spiritual universes.  Secondly, it allows visitors to ascend up and closer to Mount Agung, which itself is considered sacred.

The complex’s symbolic center and most important temple is Pura Penataran Agungand.  The main entrance is a grand stairway which ascends through the terraces and lined with statues of gods and demons.  Only Hindu worshippers are allowed to use it, visitors instead must go through a parallel set of stairs outside of the temple’s walls.

Inside the main courtyard is a large open space for worshippers.  At the back of the courtyard are three tall structures representing Mount Meru that are dedicated to three Hindu gods, Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu.  There are inner courtyards right behind the main one, which itself houses many more Mount Meru representations.

Besakih is home to numerous festivals, the most colorful of which is Odalan (simply known as temple festival).   This festival celebrates every Balinese shrine’s founding and many believe that spirits descend from the heavens for three days during its anniversary.  People will ‘entertain’ the spirits with food, prayers, dances and other activities.  There could be as many as seventy festivals held at the complex each year since there is a yearly celebration for each shrine.  A shrine’s Odalan occurs every 210 days instead of 365, it being based on the Balinese wuku calendar system.

Mount Agung ‘s last eruption occurred in 1963.  It was one of the biggest eruptions recorded during the 20th century, which killed more 1,700 people and also threatened the sanctuary.  The lava however, missed it by mere inches.  The survival of the temple was considered a miracle by the Balinese people and a sign of the god’s awesome power but appreciation towards the monument.

If you would like to explore some of Bali’s most beautiful temples on two wheels, then Exotissimo’s Besakih Temple and Sidemen adventure day trip tour is for you.  This guided full day program combines visits to Klungkung and Besakih temples to learn about the religious and spiritual traditions of the Balinese and take a bike ride through spectacular, typical rural villages for a taste of the local lifestyles.  You can contact us if you would like to integrate this program into one of our Indonesia tours in Bali.

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