Friday, April 23, 2010

Amazing Temples of Bali

The Rock-cut Niches at Gunung Kawi by the River Pakerison
If you say Bali is land of temples, then it would be no exaggeration. Most of the people in Bali follows Hinduism.. owing to long contacts with Indian sub-continent since first century AD. Many religious and cultural traditions are rooted into the times when influence of Indian culture was at its highest in 10th century AD. There are a number of ancient Hindu temples in Bali whose architecture leaves one spellbound, and whose ambiance is peaceful enough to send one into a state of meditation.

My second morning at Ubud had started on a high note, and by the evening I was exhausted by extensive sight-seeing on the island. But, there is no denying the fact that in the evening when I lay in my bed relaxing my fatigued limbs, I was mentally refreshed, excited and enriched. By the time I returned to Ubud in the night, I was already in love with Bali. Yes, that is the magic this tiny island can cast upon anybody.

The one-day trip begins
My one-day journey through time had started after breakfast the second day. The cab picked me up from in front of my home-stay. There were already three fellow vagabonds in cab, who by the evening had become good friends (I am still in contact with them). Our full day excursion of the island included visits to many temples including the cave temple of Goa Gajah and the biggest temple of Pura Besakih.

The Cave Temple
Goa Gajah is an ancient temple built in 9th century, where main shrine is inside a cave. Goa Gajah literally means elephant cave. The facade of the cave is a relief of various creatures and demons carved right into the rock at the cave entrance. This temple is not situated very far from Ubud. It was the first temple on our day long trip. And there were a couple of more situated here and there on the island.When you visit temples of Bali you are required to respect the local customs. Proper dress is encouraged. If you wear long pants or a long skirt you will need a sash tied around your waist. If you are wearing shorts you will need a sarong. It is a wrap around the waist which is of ankle-length. It is same as dhoti in India. These can typically be hired at the temple itself.

Rock-cut shrines near river Pakerison
From Gajah Goa, we moved on to Gunung Kawi. It is an 11th century temple complex in Tampak Siring area of Bali. It is situated north-east of Ubud and is located on the river Pakerison. The complex comprises of 10 rock-cut candi - meaning shrines - carved into the cliff face. They stand in 23 feet high sheltered niches cut into the cliff face. These monuments are thought to be dedicated to King Anak Wungsu of the Udayana dynasty and his favourite queens.

Pura Tirta Empul
Our next stop in our day-long trip was Pura Tirta Empul. This temples is built around a sacred spring named Tampak Siring. An inscription dates the spring all the way back to 926AD; and there are fine carvings and Garudas on the courtyard buildings. The temple and its two bathing spots have been used by the Balinese for over a thousand years for good health and prosperity; as the spring water really does have the power to cure! Regular purification ceremonies also take place here. Artists at Tampak Siring produce marvellous bone and ivory carvings. Both sites are open daily.

Mother Temple of Besakih
After having a feel of these ancient temples of Bali, we were headed to the most important, the largest and the holiest temple of Agama Hindu Dharma in Bali. This is called the Mother Temple of Besakih, or Pura Besakih. Situated in the village of Besakih on the slopes of Mount Agung in north-eastern Bali, this temple probably dates back to the fourteenth century. It is built on the southern slopes of Mount Agung, the main volcano of Bali.
This temple is actually a complex made up of 22 temples that sit on parallel ridges. It has stepped terraces and flights of stairs which ascend to a number of courtyards and brick gateways that lead up to the symbolic centre or main sanctuary of the complex. This centre is called Pura Penataran Agung. All this is aligned along a single axis and designed to lead the spiritual upward and closer to the mountain which is considered sacred. The lotus throne or padmasana is the symbolic center of the main sanctuary and ritual focus of the entire complex which dates to around 17th century.

This complex is so huge that you need to have at least one full day to actually let it sink in you. The taxi does not take you right up to the main entrance. In fact, you have to walk uphill a metallic road for about 2 kilometres. This road is lined with numerous shops and houses. Most of the shops sell prasada, or the offering for the gods. This walk uphill can prove to be a good test for your lungs. Once you arrive at the temple, you may come face-to-face with touts who ask for money to let you go to the main shrine. They are obviously in connivance with the guards. I refused to pay anything, but one guard let me in after knowing that I was a Hindu. So, I could go to the main shrine as a devotee rather than a tourist. Nonetheless, it is must-visit place, and the whole atmosphere is pious with even toddlers clad in traditional attires. The complex reverberate with sounds of chantings of compositions from Ramayana, and this place was successful in creating a long-lasting impression upon me.

Text and Photos by Ajay Garg

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3 comments:

i wnt throug dis olso
nt wnt 2 rpeat my wrds
as usual u r gud sir

bst wishes.....

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