Besakih is known as the Mother Temple of Bali and is simply the most important temple for the whole of the island. It’s actually more like a complex of temples in one very large compound and its known and loved for is its dramatic location on the southern slopes of Sacred Mount Agung.
Besakih is known as the Mother Temple of Bali and is simply the most important temple for the whole of the island. It’s actually more like a complex of temples in one very large compound and its known and loved for is its dramatic location on the southern slopes of Sacred Mount Agung. It is known as and accepted as Bali’s Mother Temple for more than a thousand years. Besakih is quite unique as it basically consists of more than 80 individual temples. The main one is Pura Penataran Agung (the Great Temple of State).
A stone within Pura Batu Madeg suggests that the area around Pura Besakih was already regarded a sacred and holy since very ancient times. In Bali, many temples and their meaning cannot be separated from the land they are built on, the nature and the spirits and gods they believe do actually live there.
The priests let us know that during the 8th century, a Hindu monk had revelations to build homes on this holy ground. They say during the process, apparently many of his followers died due to illness and even accidents. Stories like this are the brickstones of legends so it is difficult to get the historic truth. The people called the area “Basuki”. A name referring to “Naga Besukian”, a dragon deity inhabiting Mount Agung.
Additional temple shrines were constructed and Besakih was established as the main temple complex around 1340.
Besakih was hit a few times by earthquakes (e.g. 1917) and also several volcanic eruptions of Mount Agung took their toll, particularly a major one in 1963. The complex did get damaged here and there but in 1963 the the lava flow did pass sparing the temple from complete destruction. This event is now of course part of the overall legend of Pura Besakih. The people believe that the deities showed their true power but without destroying the holy temple completely.
Besakih being the biggest and holiest of the island’s temples plays a significant role not only for the villages and families nearby but for entire Bali. Many important festivals are celebrated here. It is a temple open to every devotee – from any caste groups. It is simply the prime spiritual centre for all Balinese.
Besakih Temple is located in the North West of Bali, near Bali’s highest and most important and most spectacular Volcano, Mount Agung. The area is on an altitude of about 1,000 metres and is located on the southwestern slopes of Mount Agung.
It is surrounded by scenic rice paddies, lush forests and vegetation. The compound is really big so you can easily spend 3 hours here. You will need to walk quite a bit and climb stairs. And if you have a good guide who is capable of explaining to you the different symbols, the meaning of the separate temples, their shrines etc time will fly.
Good to Know
Beside the religious importance of Besakih, of course because of all it has to offer, it is one of the top things to do on Bali. Pura Besakih was nominated also a World Heritage Site 1995 adding to the fame.
Hiring a Guide
Besakih can therefore become at times quite crowded attracting all sorts of guides, vendors, experts and “Let-Me-Help-Yous”. It is however really advisable to hire an official guide who has the knowledge about Besakih. Those guides are locals from the nearby villages and organized through the Banjar. You find them in front of the entrance (or they find you), they wear traditional Batik shirts. There’s no obligation to hire a guide for tours around the complex although some might suggest the opposite.
The fee for a guide depends on your negotiation skills. Bear in mind that a hotel worker gets roughly 130US$ per month – for working 8 hours a day or more, 6 days a week.
You must wear a proper top, and a sarong. If you forgot to bring one, there are countless shop vendors around, that can sense that and are keen to offer you a solution to your problem – or two, or three or four. A simple Sarong should cost you not more than 50.000-100.000Rp (5-10US$). You can also rent one in front of the entrance.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit is the early morning, so you avoid the many groups that come here in tour buses. Bali welcomes roughly 3.5 mio foreign tourists but not to forget 8mio domestic tourists every year.
And many of them feel also drawn to come to Besakih, the mother temple of the Balinese. Additionally, more than 70 important ceremonies are held here based on the Balinese Calender, the shrines anniversaries are celebrated regularly
Part of Balinese Life
Besakih is integral part of Balinese Hindu religion and culture. And like you can see on the picture on the right, worshippers and priests are actively involved in their rituals and ceremonies almost every day. Hindus come here to pray and to worship their gods. As a visitor you will see not only a very impressive religious site which is an important part of the Balinese cultural heritage, but witness authentic Balinese Hindu practices.