The Splendor of Pura Besakih
On the eastern side of Bali rests a majestic, imposing active volcano- Mount Agung. The slopes of Mount Agung hosts an even more impressive and royal architectural Marvel – Pura Besakih, also known as Mother Temple of Besakih, the largest, most holiest and the most important Hindu temple in Bali.
It is a standing testimony to Bali’s rich ancient culture, built around 1000 A.D by unknown forces. Originally a temple to the dragon god Besakih who is believed to occupy the sacred mountain, it was used as a Hindu place of worship from the 13th century, when the first Javanese conquerors settled in Bali. In the 15th century, the powerful Gelgel dynasty declared the edifice as its state temple. Inn 1963, Mount Agung had erupted, spewing ash and lava all around, yet the temple miraculously survived the volcanic burst. This is considered as a sign from the gods, who wished to show their power yet did not want to destroy the magnificent Pura Besakih.
A creation of finest architectural splendour, Pura Besakih consists of three main temples dedicated to Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu, as well as 18 separate sanctuaries for different groups and castes. Pura Besakih is known to be the only temple in Bali where a Hindu of any caste can pray. Pura Panataran Agung is the Shiva temple, holding white banners aloft for the deity, while Pura Kiduling Kreteg flies red banners for Brahma, the creator and Pura Batu Mddeg flies black banners for Vishnu. There are several smaller corridors and Puras within the temple not accessible to tourists.
A word of caution for the tourists to Pura Besakih is to be careful about a group that operates around the temple, charging exorbitant donations for a “compulsory guide”. Also, it helps to arrive before 9 am at the temple, as the crowds would be significantly lesser.