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.
Pura Penataran Agung, or the “Great Temple of State” is the center of the temple complex and is is Bali’s main place of worship, a complex comprising twenty-two temples on six rising terraces set on parallel ridges.
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.
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.
Away from the loud parties of Kuta Beach, leaving the thrilling waves of Uluwatu behind and the modern facilities of Nusa Dua, then traveling beyond enchanting Ubud, a visit to Pura Besakih is truly a spiritual experience into the heart of Balinese religious and cultural life.
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There are many roadside stalls called warungs along the footpath before you reach the gate of the temple complex. You need not worry about getting ripped off, as prices are reasonable here.
You can buy some unique souvenirs of Bali for your family members or loved ones. Bali is best known for its unique hand-made crafts, paintings, sculpture and carvings. There are also many vendors outside the temple complex selling trinkets and handicrafts.
Besakih is easily reached from all parts of Bali. You can stay anywhere on the island and visit the temple. All over Bali there is a range of accommodation options, from super deluxe hotels to the more affordable home stays. It is also possible to stay with the locals.
Besakih is a remarkable and outstanding temple. Looking at the temple from a distance, you can observe an impressive complex of pyramid-like temples, extending up the mountain, with Gunung Agung providing a dramatic backdrop. The setting looks particularly stunning in the clear morning light, and gorgeous at sunset. This temple is also decorated with Bali-style ornaments, doorstep temple, sacred stone idols, and stone carvings.
Before exploring this temple, you have to rent and wear a sarong and sash at the main entrance of the temple to respect the Balinese tradition, as Besakih Temple is a holy place of worship. The Sarong and sash are special clothes Balinese wear when praying at temples. When you reach the complex, you will see the first group of temples on your left. This is sacred temple dedicated to royal ancestors is known as Pura Dalem Puri. Balinese store the ashes of the dead after the cremation known as the Ngaben ceremony. From here, walk up the flight of stairs that will lead you to Pura Penataran Agung. The locals believe that Pura Penataran Agung is the center of devotion to the Gods.
Next to the main temple are two other important temples. These are Pura Kiduling Kreteg on its right and Pura Batu Madeg on its left. The colors of the banners denote which God the temple is dedicated to, the three representing the Hindu Trinity. The white banner is dedicated to the temple of Shiva (Pura Penataran Agung), the red banner is for the temple of Brahma (Pura Kiduling Kreteg), while the black banner is for the temple of Vishnu (Pura Batu Mandeg). When there are no festivals or events taking place here, visitors may be allowed inside to look around the temples. This is the best spot to take pictures.
If you wish to explore the more remote part of the temple, head to Pura Pengubengan, which is situated some 2 kilometers at the northern end of the complex.
To reach the temple complex, you have to stroll up a footpath for about 200 meters. On both sides of the path you will find beautiful views, and feel the breeze on your way to the temples. Otherwise, you may prefer to rent a motorbike offered by the locals.
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. Simply head east towards Sanur, then follow the fast coastal route, which is connected to the Kusamba Bypass at Tohpati. Then go north until you find the road sign to Besakih, and after a few kilometers from this point turn north.
If you are staying around Klungkung, then Besakih is about 20 kilometers north of the town center. Take the Bemo – the small public buses – that will take you to Besakih from Klungkung. Bemos are most frequent in the morning, and it is recommended to change bemos at Rendang, halfway between Klungkung and Besakih.
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.
Besakih Temple is open to visitors all year round during the official opening hours between 8 a.m. up to 5 p.m.. The entrance fee is Rp 20,000; parking fee Rp 5,000; camera use submission Rp 2,000, and video use Rp 2,500.
If you who have not been to Besakih Temple before you may want to engage a guide, who will help show you around the temple. The guide fee is about 25 USD. Still, if you do not find it necessary to hire a guide, you can walk around on your own.
Prepare yourself with a pair of comfortable shoes, sunglasses, a hat, and a light t-shirt.
It is recommended to invite a Balinese friend to accompany you or hire a driver to visit Besakih temple in the daytime.
Please feel free to report to the temple guards if you meet with any problems.