What are Bali directional temples?

You may hear or find different information about directional temples in Bali, but what does directional temple means? Or what makes it different from other temples? Can we, tourists, visiting those temples? Our editor has summarized essential information on this subject. Before jumping into directional temples, also known as Pura Kahyangan Padma Bhuwana, it will be better if we understand the temple hierarchy of Bali temples briefly.

All temples in Bali are considered as sacred sites; however, some are believed to play more important rules for complicated reasons on the island. Based on its function and characteristic, Bali temples are categorized into four groups, and sometime these groups will be sub-categorized based on its particular purposes.

  1. Pura Kahyangan (Kahyangan temples) are the most sacred type of temples and built to honour the highest God and Goddess in Hindu Bali also holy gurus, high priests and important ancestors. Kahyangan temples are sub-categorized into six divisions: 
    • Pura Kahyangan Rwa Bineda
    • Pura Kahyangan Catur Loka Pala
    • Pura Kahyangan Sad Winayaka or Pura Sad Kahyangan (this category is also known as the directional temples of Bali, all of them are specially situated in nine cardinal directions of the island)
    • Pura Kahyangan Padma Bhuwana
    • Pura Dang Kahyangan
    • Regional Pura Kahyangan Jagat 
  2. Pura Desa, also known as Pura Kahyangan Tiga, are commonly recognized as village temples. Each village in Bali has at least three temples.
    • Pura Desa dedicated to Lord Brahma 
    • Pura Puseh dedicated to Vishnu God  
    • Pura Dalem dedicated to Shiva God
  3. Pura Swagina is a type of a temple built for specific jobs of the worshippers. For example, Pura Melanting for traders; Pura Subak, Ulunsuwi and Uluncarik for farmers; and small temples in offices, companies or hotels.
  4. Pura Kawitan is a type of a temple built based on the origins of family lineage. Every family in Bali has specific family temples built for their ancestor in their respective homes. This sacred building, commonly known as sanggah or pengajan. Other structures within this group are Dadia, Paibon, Panti and Pedarman (a complex of temple for specific family lineage) in Besakih.

Now, let’s focus on Pura Kahyangan Sad Winayaka/ Pura Sad Kahyangan, also popular as the directional temples among the tourists. Unlike, other temples which only allow people from a specific lineage of family with strict customs regulations; these nine temples are opened and functioned as pilgrimage destinations for all Hindu-Bali worshippers in the island. It is strictly forbidden for tourists to enter the worship area (inner sanctum). However, suppose you are on a spiritual journey and able to find the right Balinese local guide. In that case, you may probably allow to enter the inner area of the temple, and of course, wearing proper Balinese attire, bring offerings and behaving accordingly is surely mandatory.

These nine temples are built based on the careful calculations of Balinese ancestors on constellations of stars, nebulae, comets and even black holes. Balinese believe these temples have protected the island from all possibility of evil spirits coming from eight directions and the centre of the island for centuries.

Centre (Madya) – Pura Pusering Jagat

This temple is located in Pejeng village – Gianyar, about an hour drive from Bali airport to the north near Ubud. Ancient Balinese believed this temple to be the centre of the universe, as the name of the temple is pretty descriptive, meaning “the centre of the universe” in Bali language. In Hindu cosmology, the centre or middle position is the authority (residence) of Lord Shiva.

In this temple, we can find several statues related to Shiva, such as statues of Ganesha (son of Shiva), Durga (Sakti Shiva), as well as statues of Bhairawa. There are also statues in the form of male (purusa) and female (pradana) genitals. In Hinduism, Purusa and Pradana are God’s first creations. Purusa is commonly considered as the spiritual seeds, and Pradana are the material seeds. The unity of Purusa and Pradana will produce life and harmony.

North (Uttara) – Pura Ulun Danu Batur

Pura Ulun Danu Batur is located in Kalanganyar village – Kintamani. You will need about two-hours drive from the airport to reach Kintamani, a highland resort with a serene view of the lake and active volcano. The temple is facing west and situated 900 metres above sea level and functioned as the north directional temple on the island.

In Hindu, Vishu God is the authority of the north, so Balinese dedicated this temple to one of the Visnu God manifestation Dewi Danuthe goddess all the lakes in Bali. Originally, this temple was located at the south-western slope of Mount Batur, due to a massive eruption in 1917, then it is moved to the current location. 

Northeast (Ersanya) – Pura Besakih

Pura Besakih or Bali Mother temple is the largest religious complex site on the island and serve as the Northeast directional temple. Located in Karang Asem – East Bali, you will need about two hours drive from most of the area in South Bali. Some historical relics found on site suggested that the temple is probably had functioned as a holy place since year 163 a.c. However, an old inscription dated-back to 1284 related to Rsi Markandeya (a monk and yogi from India) mentioned that from the site known as Besakih Temple (today) the Hindu Bali was born.

Within the temple area, there are at least 18 temples dedicated to Balinese ancestors, Gods and holy gurus. In one of the main temples called Pura Penataran Agung, we can find statues of God Tri Murti or three highest God in Hinduism. Brahma as the God of Creator, Vishnu as the God of Preserver and Shiva as the God of reincarnation. 

East (Purwa) – Pura Lempuyang Luhur

Tourists may recognize this temple from its iconic entrance called “Gate of Heaven”, thousand of images have been posted on Instagram with the beautiful scene of Mount Agung from this temple gate. People are willing to queue in a long line, that can take up to three to four hours waiting only to take maximum two minutes photo session. The temple is situated in the slope of Mount Lempuyang, Karangasem – East Bali. You will need at least two hours drive to get into this temple and climb up hundreds of steps to get into the main atrium of the temple.

The temple was built to honour Sang Hyang Iswara, the protector of the east and his manifestation the goddess of sunshine, Dewi Savita or Dewi Savitri. Everyone is advised to behave accordingly, no cursing words, negative thoughts and complaining. Women on periods and those who have a family or relative passed away are forbidden to visit the temple; it’s considered cuntaka or bring bad luck if they are forcing themselves to be on the site. 

Southeast (Gneya) – Pura Goa Lawah

If you go to Padang Bai or Candidasa, you will pass a big temple located right at the front of the beach with the same name as the temple, Goa Lawah. You will need about an hour drive from the airport to reach the site, thanks to the Ida Bagus Mantra highroad, the journey across the east coast of Bali is now smooth and comfortable, with a beautiful view of hills and black-sand beaches. 

Goa Lawah was built to honour Bali’s important ancestors and holy gurus like Bhatara Tengahing Segara, Sang Hyang Basuki and Sang Hyang Tunggal. Locals believe one of the caves located in the temple is connected to Besakih mother temple. 

South (Daksina) – Pura Andakasa

Pura Andakasa is probably one of the most underrated directional temples in Bali. Only those who have a special interest in Bali history and culture know this temple. Situated on a hill 200 metres above the sea level in Manggis village – Karangasem; you will need about an hour and a half to get to the site.

Mpu Kuturan had founded this temple around the eleventh century, and during the seventeenth, to eighteenth-century it had a big renovation due to the Mount Agung eruption; this information was recorded on a scripture found in the temple. Pura Luhur Andakasa is dedicated to Hyang Tugu or Dewa Brahma who controls all the southern areas based on Bali Hinduism.

Southwest (Neritya) – Pura Uluwatu

Pura Luhur Uluwatu is one of the most beautiful and must-visit places in Bali. It is famous for the stunning view of limestone cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean and awesome surf spot nearby. Every sunset there will be a spectacular show of Kecak & fire dance in an open theatre within the temple complex. Located in the southern part of the island, you only need half an hour drive to reach the spot. Watch your belongings carefully as there are many naughty monkeys love to steal hats, phone, camera and glasses of the tourists.

As the Southwest directional temple, Pura Uluwatu is dedicated to Dewa Rudra, the God of harmony and peacekeeper of the universe. Balinese believe Mpu Kuturan, a holy guru from Java had founded this temple in the eleventh century.

West (Pascima) – Pura Batukaru

Pura Luhur Batukaru is located in Penebel village – Tabanan, about an hour and 30 minutes away from the airport. Situated in the southern slope of mount Batukaru, makes it one of the hidden attractions worth to visit. The serene vibes on-site brings out the inner peace within you, especially when you are exploring some areas of the temples which covered by wild moss.

As the west-guardian temple, Pura Batukaru is dedicated to Dewa Mahadewa, the God of the plants. Many Balinese working on agriculture and farming sectors commonly visit the temple regularly hoping for a blessing to their business. 

Northwest (Wayabya) – Pura Pucakmangu

Pura Pucakmangu is located in Pelaga village – Petang. It is situated in 2020meters above sea level, on top of Mount Mangu. Some historian believe the site had existed since the megalithic era. Many ancient inscriptions discovered in the early of the nineteenth century suggested Pucakmangu temple was once a very sacred place commonly used as a meditation spot for the kings of Bali.

This temple is dedicated to Hyang Danawa, Hyang Manikumayang, Hyang Sangkara important Bali Gods related to holy lakes in Bali, Batur, Buyan and Tamblingan.

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