Besakih is known as the Mother Temple of Bali. Located in Karangasem Regency, this biggest temple in Bali is kind of magnet for visitors. Even though the temple is revered and holy, but it can be also visited by tourists. Thousand steps and divided gates should be climbed to reach the highest temple. The mother temple Besakih consists of three main temples, each is dedicated to Trinity Shiva, Brahma, and Wisnu.
The majestic temple complex nestles at the foot of Mount Agung. This is the place where the Hindus come for blessing and tourists come for its unique ancient architecture and atmosphere. It is the source of spiritual energy as well as the centre of Balinese Hindu life. Besakih has been worldly renowned for its unique tradition and culture, and has been listed by world vacationers as one of the most favorite places to visit. A lontar manuscript indicated that in 158AD Rsi Markandiya came to an island that had a large of mountains from east to west and which he could see from his meditation spot in Mount Rawung, Cast Java. Rsi Markandiya was a yogi from India who had meditated in East Java since long time ago. While he was meditating, a supernatural voice told him to go to the island together with his people.
The history then wrote a tragic A tragic incident occurred while he and his people were in the island which he named Pulau Dawa. Pulau means an island and Dawa means long. Rsi’s people worked hard to prepare the land for cultivation, but some wild animals and a strange epidemic killed so many of the people. The tragedy made the Maha Yogi fell into desperation and he went back to Mount Rawung only to return to the Pulau Dawa after sometime had passed.
For the second time, he came to Pulau Dawa with some people from the village of Aga near Mount Rawung. By the time he was in the island with his people, a ritual was always held before they started working. Markandiya also held a ritual called Panca Datu, using 5 instruments which were made of gold, silver, bronze, metal and red diamond. He named the area of the ritual as Basuki which means bless. And today, the area is popularly known as Besakih. People from Aga village are now called the Bali Aga, Bali from the word Wali means holy sacrifice and Aga means mountain. Rsi Markandiya organized his people and taught them farming and organized the social system. The civilization on the island was started in a sacred place at the foot of Mount Agung where the temple complex stands royally today.
With an extensive complex of 23 temples, Besakih has the largest temple inside the complex called Pura Penataran Agung that is dedicated to Shiva. There are also Pura Kiduling Kreteg that represents Brahma, the Creator and Pura Batu Madeg represens Visnu, the Preserver. Those three manifestations of God are known as Tri Murti. Apart of those temples, there are also temples representing Panca Dewata, 5 God’s manifestations that protect 4 directions and the center. On the right and left side of Pura Penataran Agung, you will find clusters of temples called Pedarman where people come to pray and give offerings for their ancestors.
Being in this area, you need to have a guide who knows and recognizes the places as well as the temples so will be able to appreciate the temples and the history behind it, besides the complex is vast and hilly. There are so many things you can observe and appreciate in the temple complex. For example, one can wonder at the carvings which tell some epic stories such as Ramayana and Mahabrata which decorate the temple’s traditional architecture and the old Kamasan style paintings.
In fact, tourists are not allowed inside the temple itself, without being accompanied by a guide. The best time to visit Besakih is in the early morning or late evening when the breeze coming. The quiet environment and the superb view down to the coast add so much to the ambience of the complex. Besides, during those times not so many people are in the temple and the crowds of ‘guides’ (commonly called themselves as ‘temple guardians) who usually convince tourists to go around under their guidance, are not yet roaming around the temple. So, maybe this is the chance for you to have a free tour of Besakih.
Once Besakih becoming one of your destination, take a note that the temple complex is located in Klungkung Regency and is the inheritance for all Balinese. Besakih has its own exceptional charm and it is believed that the temple area is filled with mystical supernatural power. In 1963, when Mount Agung erupted, Besakih was the only place which survived from the lava even though it nestles at the very foot of the mountain. It is the dream of every Balinese to pray and give offerings in the temple, which plays a big role in the history of Balinese civilization.
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