The temple is the most important institution on Bali and the center
of religious activities. Though Bali is renowned as the "Land of Ten
Thousand Temples," there are actually at least 50,000 scattered over
the island. Large or small, simple or elaborately carved, they're everywhere-in
houses, courtyards, marketplaces, cemeteries, and rice paddies; on beaches,
barren rocks offshore, deserted hilltops, and mountain heights; deep inside
caves; within the tangled roots of banyan trees. At most intersections
and other dangerous places temples are erected to prevent mishaps. Even
in the middle of jungle crossroads, incense burns at small shrines brightened
with flowers, wrapped leaves, and gaily colored cloth.
Each village has its own shrines for community worship, and public temples may be used by anyone to pray to Sanghyang Widhi or any of his manifestations. There are mountain temples (pura bukit), sea temples (pura segara), genealogical temples, temples for the deities of markets and seeds (pura melanting), lake temples, cave temples, hospital temples, bathing temples, temples dedicated to spirits in springs, lakes, trees, and rocks. There are also private temples for those of noble descent, royal "state" temples, and temples for clans (pura dadia) who share a common geneology. Some temples commemorate the deeds of royalty. Numerous important temples-Gunung Kawi, Pura Penulisan-are actually memorial shrines to ancient rulers and their families.
Balinese temples are not dedicated to a specific god but to a collection of spirits, both good and bad, who reside in the various shrines. No one knows which spirits are visiting which shrines, so to make sure that only their beneficent aspects appear offerings are placed in all shrines.
Unlike the austere, restricted temples of other countries in Asia, the Balinese temple is open and friendly, with children, tourists, and even dogs wandering in and out. During festivals the temple grounds serve as a stage where the worshippers become actors, the priests directors, and the gods and demons invisible but critical spectators.
Once every six months in the Balinese calendar, each temple holds an odalan or anniversary celebration. Since there are tens of thousands of temples on the island, an odalan is in progress almost every day somewhere. On the occasion ancestral personages descend from heaven and the temples are alive with fervent activity. For the really big religious ceremonies and rites, temple pavilions are sometimes completely wrapped in cloths and umbel-umbel banners, studded with ceremonial umbrellas. Foods are placed on altars under the eyes of the stone deities, the gods occupying small gold, bronze, or gilded wood figurines (pratima). During festivals the temple courtyard is literally covered in gifts to the gods, with seething throngs of people beneath high tapering white and saffron-colored flags, the air thick with smoke and the clanging of gamelan. Everyone arrives beautifully dressed, presenting the deities with prayer, devotions, food, music, and cockfights to amuse them during their visit to Earth. Temple dances like the pendet and rejang welcome and delight the visiting spirits. After one to three days, thoroughly entertained and surfeited with food, the deities return to heaven.
Anyone who's properly dressed may visit a temple. If you're wearing long pants or a long skirt, a sash will usually be required; if you're wearing shorts, you'll need a sarong. Tour guides provide these items, as do ticket-sellers at many of the most-visited temples. Best is to buy your own in the local market for around Rp5000. Sashes should also be worn for any temple festival you may happen upon.
All temple complexes and historical sities now charge Rp550 admission. If there's no entrance fee, you may be asked for a small contribution to help offset the cost of maintenance. It's also common to sign a guestbook. At some of the more obscure sites beware of guestbooks in which zeros have been added to all the preceding figures, making it appear donations have been substantial.
Use your camera with discretion. Don't climb onto temple buildings or walls, or stand or sit higher than a priest. If people are praying, avoid getting between them and the direction in which they're praying. Stealing is unthinkable. In 1993, 14 people were murdered on the spot after they were caught stealing from temples in the Ubud area. Non-Hindus may not enter the innermost courtyards (jeroan) of some temples. Tour companies are now starting to drop Brahman temples from tours at the request of temple keepers. By ancient law menstruating women are banned from temples, due to a general sanction against blood on holy soil.
Bali is a floating shrine, where all the homes are temples and all the temples homes. Thousands of private domestic temples-sanggah, or pamerajan for the upper castes-are dedicated to various deities and family ancestors. Each small domestic altar is very well maintained and receives fresh offerings each morning. Every house has a small shrine (sanggah paon) by the hearth dedicated to Bhatara Brahma, the god of fire, and yet another by the well dedicated to the god of water, Bhatara Vishnu. Temporary shrines (sanggah crucuk) are constructed for special purposes, such as a death in the family or before work commences on a project.
Every Balinese village features at least three obligatory temples-in the north, center, and south of town. The pura puseh is the "navel" temple, or temple of origin, around which the original community sprang. This temple is dedicated to the spirits of the land, to the deified village founder, and to Vishnu, the Preserver of Life. The pura desa, or "village temple" is concerned with everyday village matters and ritually prescribed village gatherings. Dedicated to Brahma, the creator, the pura desa is also an assembly hall where men meet for communal, ceremonial meals. Also called the pura balai agung, it's oriented to the mountains and to the east. The temple of the dead, pura dalem, is dedicated to Shiva the Destroyer or his consort Durga. It is also connected with ancestors. As most villages are built on a slope, the southern or kelod end in the lowest part of the village is where the temple of the dead and the burial ground with its mournful kepuh tree are located. Each faces the sea, where the powers of the netherworld dwell. The pura dalem's carved walls are often decorated with explicit pornography and gruesome depictions of the fate awaiting offenders who violate taboos or fail to observe customs. Before the deceased have been completely purified by cremation, their souls rest in the death temple. The pura dalem is also where the sacred barong mask is stored. In some villages a single temple functions as both pura puseh and pura desa, with only a wall dividing them.
Agricultural temples are also important. All over Bali are pura dedicated to the rice goddess, Dewi Sri, divine consort of Dewa Vishnu, the Preserver. In northern Bali, where subak control every facet of life, the elaborate temples dedicated to Dewi Sri-called here Pura Hulun Swi-are the grandest religious edifices on the island.
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan in Candikuning and Pura Luhur on Gunung Batukau are dedicated to lake goddesses worshipped as sources of fertility. These are deemed female temples; their male counterpart is Pura Besakih on the slopes of Gunung Agung. Also widespread are the subak temples belonging to local irrigation societies.
Known as the "Six Great Sanctuaries," Sad-kahyangan temples are the holiest places of worship on Bali. Owned by the whole island rather than by individual villages or clans, they're also known as "State Temples," or by the even more pretentious designation "World Sanctuaries."
Visitors are sometimes confused to hear of as many as 12 sites listed among the "Six Great Sanctuaries," a result of regional favoritism. Most important is Besakih, the great mother temple complex on the slopes of mighty Gunung Agung. This volcano, the "Navel of the World," is Bali's holiest mountain, where all the gods and goddesses live. Others among the six include Pura Panataran Sasih in Pejeng, Pura Dasar in Gelgel, Pura Panataran Goa Lawa in Klungkung, and Pura Kehen in Bangli.
Also included-depending on who's counting-are the magnificent Uluwatu sea temple on the Bukit Peninsula, built on a long narrow cliff 76 meters above the sea; Pura Tirta Empul in Tampaksiring, famous for its sacred pool; Pura Sakenan on the island of Serangan; Yeh Jeruk in Gianyar; and Pura Batukau near the top of Gunung Batukau in Tabanan.
"outside." This is the first courtyard of a Balinese temple.
One enters it through the split gate (A) or candi bentar. It serves
as an antechamber for social gatherings and ritual preparations. Contains
thatched-roofed storage sheds, bale for food preparation, etc.
Jeroan means "inside." The inner courtyard of a Balinese temple, the temple proper. Here are all the shrines, altars, and meru towers that serve as temporary places for the gods during their visits to Bali. This enclosure, behind the closed gate (paduraksa), is the "holy of the holiest."
A) candi bentar -The split gate, two halves of a solid, elaborately carved tower cut clean through the middle, each half separated to allow entrance into the temple. Its form is probably derived from the ancient candi of Java.
B) kulkul - a tall alarm tower with a wooden split drum, to announce happenings in the temple or to warn of danger
C) paon - the kitchen, where offerings are prepared
D) bale gong - a shed or pavilion where the gamelan is kept
E) bale - for pilgrims and worshippers
F) paduraksa - A second, closed ceremonial gateway, guarded by raksasa, leading to the inner courtyard (jeroan). This massive monumental gate is similar in design to the candi bentarbut is raised high off the ground on a stone platform with a narrow entrance reached by a flight of steps. Often behind the door is a stone wall which is meant to block demons from entering the jeroan This gate is only opened when there's a ceremony in progress.
G) side gate - aIways open to allow entrance to the jeroan
H) paruman (or pepelik) - a pavilion in the middle of the jeroan which serves as a communal seat for the gods
I & J) shrines for Ngrurah Alit and Ngrurah Gede, secretaries to the gods, who make sure that the proper offerings are made to the gods
K) gedong pesimpangan - a masonry building with (usually) locked wooden doors dedicated to the local deity, the ancestor founder of the village
L) padmasan - the stone throne for the sun-god Surya, almost always located in the uppermost right hand corner of the temple, its back fadng the holy mountain Gunung Agung. Sometimes there's a shrine for Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma here as well.
M) meru - a three-roofed shrine for Gunung Agung, the holiest and highest mountain of Bali
N) meru - an 11-roofed shrine dedicated to Sanghyang Widhi, the highest Balinese deity
O) meru - a one-roofed shrine dedicated to Gunung Batur, a sacred mountain in northern Bangli Regency
P) Maospait Shrine - dedicated to the divine settlers of Bali from the Majapahit Empire. The symbol of these totemic gods is the deer, so this shrine can be recognized by the sculpture of a deer's head or stylized antlers.
Q) taksu - The seat for the interpreter of the deities. The taksu inhabits the bodies of mediums and speaks through them to announce the wishes of the gods to the people. Sometimes the medium is an entranced dancer.
R & S) bale piasan - simple sheds for offerings
Balinese temples are derived from the Neolithic sanctuaries of prehistoric Bali. Like the primitive stone enclosures and platforms of ancient Polynesia and Micronesia, the aboriginal prototype of the Balinese temple was a rectangle of holy ground containing sacrificial altars and crude heaps of stones. Ancient Balinese temples evincing this strong Polynesian feeling are found either in the mountains or along the coast.
Some mountain villagers still practice ceremonies echoing back to prehistory, when through shamanistic rites the spirits of fearsome nature gods would visit the megaliths. The shrines in courtyards of contemporary temples can be traced back to these rough stone pyramids. In many cases, craftsmen have added new stonework, cement altars, and fresh decorations, often hiding the original work. The terraced layout of such temples as Pura Kehen and Pura Besakih also suggest very early origins.
The Bali Aga still build distinct temples with such odd features as little bridges and separate halls for priests and other groups. See the great temples of Trunyan on Lake Batur and Taro in the mountains behind Gianyar.
Though a "typical" Balinese temple does not exist, the innumerable temples of Bali generally share a number of characteristics. In contrast to China, India, or Hinduized Java, where the temple is a roofed hall with a statue of a god as its focus of religious worship, on Bali space is emphasized over mass. A requirement for any consecrated place on Bali is that it be an open area enclosed by walls; the interior space is holy ground, as sacred as the shrines within; the temple is open to the sky, to make the shrines more accessible to the gods. A replica of a lake or mountain may be placed in a temple to save devotees the time and effort of visiting the actual sacred site.
The Balinese temple consists of two or three walled-in courtyards. Jabaan, the outermost yard, is used for offerings, dances of a secular or commercial nature, and by musicians. Jaba tengah, the middle yard is dedicated to food preparation, the making of offerings, and classical dances. Jeroan, the innermost yard is the locus of worship, ceremonies, and sacred dances. Elaborate stone gates lead from one courtyard to the next. All courtyards are oriented in the kaja direction, toward the sacred mountains, and worshippers always face kaja when they pray.
Temples are also divided into vertical layers of spirituality-the higher the tower, the more sacred the shrine. A distinctive Balinese structure is the pagoda-like meru, with as many as 11 (always an odd number) superimposed black thatch roofs. The top roof is the perch for the particular god when s/he descends. Most "seats" for deities are located at the end of the temple nearest the mountains. The last courtyard is the most sacred; to enter this inner sanctum, worshippers often must pass through an enormous gate under the threatening gaze of the fanged guardian demon Boma. In the belief that evil spirits cannot turn corners, numerous temples feature a solid brick wall just behind the entrance.
One of the most familiar Balinese architectural features is the remarkable split gateway (candi bentar), a tall monument cut exactly down the middle, its walls rising to an ornamental peak, always facing the sea. The large gap symbolically separates the two halves of the Indic cosmic mountain, Mahameru. An instantly recognizable emblem of Bali, this sacred structure often serves inappropriately as an entrance gate to hotels, palaces, and government offices.
Northern Bali's temples embody yet another design, which departs dramatically from those of the temples of the south. Here, richly carved stone monuments are often built on the slope of a hill, accessible by long flights of steps. Pura Meduwe Karang in Kubutambahan and Pura Beji in Sangsit are two outstanding examples of this style. These architectural extravaganzas contain many humorous relief panels in which European technology and burlesque caricatures coexist together in the spirited world of Balinese mythology.
No special class of architects constructs temples. The master sculptor who designs and directs the work takes part in the backbreaking toil, assisted by a number of stone and brick masons. He sometimes works from a blueprint, but more often the temple is begun without a drawn plan. Possessing skills passed down through generations, the master builder claims to know the traditional proportions and specifications of a temple "in his belly." In traditional temple construction all units of measurement are based upon the sculptor's own body. This unscientific yet flawless technique assures that no two temples share the same dimensions.
The aesthetics of a temple are judged by its symmetry and harmony with its surroundings. Blocks of stone and baked bricks are joined without mortar and must fit together perfectly to give the structure strength. Stone surfaces are worn by rubbing them together while sluicing them with water. After the mass of stones and red brick are fitted, work begins on the extravagantly sculpted decorative motifs and reliefs.
Balinese temples are constantly being cleaned, rebuilt, and restored. Because the gray sandstone in the temples of southern Bali wears out, every temple must be completely renewed at least once every 50 years. In 1993, a small community of 250 people near the village of Mas raised 12 million rupiah to rehabilitate their banjar temple. With the growing use of ferro-concrete form construction, traditional temple building is becoming a lost art.