The island of Bali is home to a multitude of temples that vary in size depending on whether they are family, local, or even national temples. Every morning, the locals come to lay down their offerings and pay their respects to the good spirits, whilst offerings placed elsewhere, on the pavements and in front of the houses, for example, are intended to pacify bad demons. Balinese temples generally face the mountains (kaja), the sea (kelod), or the rising sun. Good spirits are believed to live in the mountains and bring prosperity whilst giants and demons live beneath the sea. The
people here worship the same gods as those in India, though there are also some purely local spirits and bodies.
Pura Basakih, which stands on the hillside of Mount Agung in the northeast of the island, is the oldest and most important temple on the island, having been built between the 14th and 17th centuries. It actually consists of nearly 200 temples that attract a great many processions throughout the year, coming here to pay their respects to the gods Brahma (to the right), Civa (in the centre), and Vishnu (to the left).
At the centre of the site, on the shores of Lake Batran lined with water lilies, stands Pura Bedugul (Ulu Danu), considered to be the most beautiful temple in Bali. It is dedicated to the goddesses of water (11-roofed Meru) and rice (3-roofed Meru).
To the west of the island stands Pura Rambut Siwit, perched on top of a cliff overlooking a long stretch of sand.
To the south of the island, meanwhile, perched atop a rocky promontory stands the 16th century Tanah Lot Temple, the most significant religious building dedicated to the sea. The best time to visit is late in the afternoon, when its silhouette is no longer blurred by the bright sunlight. It is also believed that the poisonous sea-snakes living at the foot of the rock are considered the guardians of the temples, protecting it against demons, intruders, and other evil spirits.
The Besakih is the 'Mother Temple' around which the cosmos is centred.© Pookpiik / iStock
For the Balinese people, the journey to the Besakih, which stands at an altitude of 1000m, is a holy pilgrimage.© MIXA
Offerings are made to the three main gods to which the temple is devoted, namely Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.© Fotosearch / GraphicObsession
The complex was miraculously spared during the devastating eruption of the Agung volcano in 1962.© Fotosearch / GraphicObsession
Mount Agung stands to the east of the island and is the highest and most sacred of Bali's volcanoes.© Csondy / iStock