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Besakih Temple The Oldest & Largest Bali Temple A Self Guide

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Besakih Temple Entrance Gate
Besakih Temple, The Most Important Temple for Balinese Hindu People. Img: Wikicommons/Schnobby

Besakih Temple situated at Karangasem Bali. At the foot of the highest mountain in the island, Mount Agung. This millenia-old Pura (temple) is actually a large complex. Consisting of 18 smaller temples, each with different type and purpose. With 3 kilometer radius from the outer temple to the uppermost one.

The complex is the largest temple in Bali. Balinese people also refer this temple as The Mother Temple. The word ‘mother’ in Mother Temple indicates the temple’s significance in Balinese Hinduism. The site is where the first holy revelation was received by Rsi Markendya. The pioneer of Balinese Hinduism.

This makes Besakih the first Hindu temple ever built in Bali and also the holiest. Pilgrims of all castes come from every corner of Bali to pray and take part in various religious ceremonies at the temple.

Besakih Temple, the most prominent Hindu Site in Bali
Pura Besakih, the oldest and prominent temple in Bali. Img: Makoto Harrada

As a tourist attraction, the temple is both loved and criticized. The criticism is mainly directed to stouts, local guides and ‘temple guardians’. Who reportedly scam tourists and therefore reducing the experience when visiting this religious place. This is an issue local officials continue to work on.

Despite that, Besakih temple still continues to attract visitors with its sacred presence, grand architecture, and a surrounding scenic view of Mount Agung landscape.

‘Sembahyang’ at Pura Penataran Agung – The Center of Besakih Temple

Going to Besakih, it’s hard to not notice the grandiose architecture of Pura Penataran Agung. Considered as the center of Besakih Temple. Pura Penataran Agung stands out with its Balinese style giant gate. And the equally giant stairway leading to the temple’s courtyards.

The temple is built on 7 tiered terraces representing 7 universes in Hindu’s belief. Each terrace has its own shrines and sculptures, decorated with cravings from Mahabarata and Ramayana. Worshippers pray here to seek blessing from the destroyer god Shiva, whom this temple is dedicated for.

Besakih Temple Religious Event
As the oldest, Besakih Temple held the religious event and always packed. Img: Jose Maria

Join a group of pilgrims in their traditional attire as visitors ascend the stairway. During normal days without big ceremonies, the inner courtyard is also open for visitors. Observe a group of worshipers as they pray in a devout manner lead by a priest. This is when visitors can learn Balinese spiritual life up close.

To get the most of the experience, go with a Balinese friend who intends to pray here. Participating in a procession will provide visitors a different perspective than only observing as an outsider. Even if visitors are not religious or spiritual. The experience would give an insight about devotion toward Hindu faith.

Something that embodies deeply in Balinese culture. It is also wonderful to experience a sense of Balinese spiritual collectiveness by kneeling along with other worshipers.

Besakih Temple and The Locals Praying
Pura Besakih facing Mount Agung. Img: Virus T.

Besakih Temple Ceremonies and Festivals

There are around 70 festivals and religious ceremonies being held every year at Besakih Temple. But visitors should come during the two most important ceremonies. The Odalan (festival) of Penataran Agung Temple, and Batara Turun Kabeh Festival.

During Odalan of Pura Penataran Agung, visitors can see thousands of Balinese crowding this main temple. That every stair on the giant stairway is full of people praying. It’s a grand procession and an exceptional spectacle.

Batara Turun Kabeh is an even bigger festival than the Odalan. Held every 10 lunar months according to the Balinese Saka calendar. The festival is to celebrate the Hindu gods who are believed to descend during the time of the festival.

Pura Besakih nearly suffer of the lava flood in 1963.
In 1963, Besakih Temple has witnessed the eruption of Mount Agung. Img: Shanti Alex

Prepare to be awe at 1-meter tall. Through the Balinese colorful offerings bring as a sacrifice to these gods. It’s also an opportunity to enjoy traditional dances such as Rejang, Wayang Lemah, and Baris. That even more, performed many times during this 3-weeks festivities.

Pura Gelap Besakih

A less popular temple, Pura Gelap Besakih, lies just about 20 minutes walk from Pura Penataran Agung. The ‘gelap’ (dark) in its name refers to the black stones dominating the temple structure. Compared to other temples in Besakih, Gelap Besakih Temple seems to stuck in the 13th century. With its ancient ‘Tomb Raider’ vibe.

A more unusual, Majapahit-esque gate adorned with difficult curves and carvings, marks the temple’s entrance. The temple is not a ruin, yet it feels like it is. Wild vegetation and green moss grow between cracks on the temple’s stairways, banisters, and walls – nobody bothers to clear them.

Saptaloka Besakih Temple
The level of each world potrayed in each shrine. Img: Bharat Singhvi

Upon arriving on the top of the stairs, visitors will see the panoramic view of the whole island of Bali with cities and villages below sprawl endlessly toward the horizon. Standing between the gates will give visitors the impression of being in the intersection between two different worlds.

A Pilgrimage With Nature

Other temples in Besakih also deserves a visit. 30 minutes from Gelap Besakih is Tirta Pingit Temple, a more secluded temple lies in a valley in Mount Agung. A combination of hiking and pilgrimage will bring visitors to pass through a forest. Along the way to the temple.

Tirta Pingit is a quiet place for meditation, where Balinese contemplate and be grateful for the nature their God has given them. Pura Pangubengan is another a 20-minute hike northward from Tirta Pingit. This uppermost temple is the closest visitors can get to view Mount Agung’s summit from Besakih complex.

The temple provides views of the surrounding villages nearby, with rice fields and green forests, all roll into the ocean far in the east. It’s peaceful to spend several minutes here. Before going back to the more crowded part of Besakih Temple below.

Besakih Temple Opening Hours

Although the temple is open 24 hours for worshipers. The official opening hours itself is from 08:00 am to 17:00 pm. The best time to visit is either early in the morning or late in the evening when the activities at the temple way less.

Besakih Temple Opening Hours
Every day except Nyepi08:00 – 17:00 WITA

Nearby: The Popular Gate of Heaven, Penataran Agung Lempuyang Temple. 

Besakih Temple Entrance Fee

The entrance ticket for foreign will cost Rp 60.000 per person. Bear in mind, a modest dress code is strictly applied here. Wear proper clothes covering the shoulder. Bring sarong to cover from the waist down. The entry includes sarong and guide. But as the temple is quite packed with visitors.

There is no guarantee sarong is available in the ticket office. The temple is not only popular with its size, but also the scam. Some pushy lady and a child will try to sell or rent sarong. And the official guide will most likely try to rip off tourist with its non-mandatory tips. Avoid using the pushy guide and be firm.

Besakih Temple Entrance Fee
ForeignRp60.000

Nearby Attraction: Tirta Gangga Water Palace. Dipping in Natural Hot Spring. 

Besakih Temple Facilities

Parking will cost Rp 5000 for every car. There will be no shortage of food, as hawkers are plenty around the temple complex, selling snacks and beverage. Toilets and information center is close by the entrance, as well as small restaurants and souvenir shops. Rental for sarong starts from Rp 50,000, just in case visitors don’t bring one.

How To Get To Besakih Temple

From Denpasar, head to Sanur and then to Klungkung Regency by taking the Kusumba Bypass. At Klungkung, take the right turn at Menanga intersection and drive toward Besakih. The journey will take 3 hours from Denpasar. The most popular mode of transportation is rental cars and rental scooters.

As for public transportation, a local ‘bemo’ is available, but it is more complicated. The journey starts from Ubung Terminal to Klunkung Terminal. From Klungkung Terminal, find a bemo with a route to Besakih. Take a note as the public transports to Besakih is not available after 3 pm.

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