Besakih Temple (Pura Besakih) in Bali

The most important, largest and holiest temple which alson known as Bali's 'Mother Temple'.

Besakih Temple (Pura Besakih)  is an artistic and unique complex that comprises at least 86 temples which include the main Pura Penataran Agung (the Great Temple of State) and 18 others.

Known as Bali's 'Mother Temple', for more than 1,000 years, has sat 1,000m up on Mount Agung’s southwestern slopes in the eastern part of Bali.

pura besakih temple

This complex of Hindu temples is the largest, holiest and most important on the island and miraculously survived the catastrophic volcanic eruption of 1963.

Surrounded by breathtaking scenery, Besakih Temple is nestled amid sweeping rice paddies, mountains, hills and streams.

The high set location of Mount Agung gives the temple complex a mystical quality and for the local Balinese, visiting this temple sanctuary is a truly special pilgrimage.

A huge staircase leads you up the sacred mountain to many different temples that represent all different types, functions and status.

Today, it serves as a popular destination for visitors to Bali and as a place of prayer for local Hindu people.

We’re going to dig deep into Besakih Bali's Mother Temple to inform you all you need to know before you visit this biggest temple, but feel free to jump to any section that interests you.

What to Expect at Besakih Temple

Travelers can wander the stepped terraces and brick gateways of the 23 ancient temples that make up the complex and sit on several parallel ridges, some 3,280 feet (1,000 meters) up the side of this active volcano.

The temples dedicated to the three main gods of Hinduism, Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma are surrounded by smaller structures housing temples to lesser gods or shrines to various Balinese castes.

 besakih temple

Besikah Temple features three temples representing the Hindu trinity. In the centre, Pura Penataran Agung represents Shiva the destroyer with white banners while to the right red banners represent Brahma the creator at Pura Kiduling Kreteg. The black banners of Pura Batu Madeg represents Vishnu the preserver.

The largest temple in the complex, Pura Penataran Agung, has different areas representing seven layers of the universe, each with their own shrines.

Pura Pasimpangan on the downstream side (on the east of the main street) and Pura Pangubengan upstream are approximately three kilometres apart.

Located on higher ground, the closest to Mount Agung's peak, Pura Pangubengan has great vistas and it’s about a 30-minute walk from the main Pura Penataran Agung.

besakih temple

Around 10 minutes to the east of Pura Pangubengan is Pura Batu Tirtha. It is where holy water is sourced for the ‘karya agung’ ceremonies at Pura Besakih and Pekraman villages.

Four temples in the complex reflect four forms of God at compass points: Pura Batu Madeg in the north, Pura Kiduling Kreteg to the south, Pura Gelap in the east, and Pura Ulun Kulkul in the west. ‘Batu ngadeg’, literally ‘standing stone’, is found in the shrine of Meru Tumpang Sebelas at Pura Batu Madeg.

This is where Vishnu is believed to descend. Still in the courtyard of Pura Batu Madeg, in front of Meru Tumpang Sebelas is the Pesamuan shrine (quadrangle-shaped with two lines of 16 poles) as a symbol of how Vishnu’s power interrelates with the world.

pura besakih temple

At least 20 minutes to the northwest from Pura Batu Madeg, down the footpath to the valley and along the river, is Pura Peninjoan – erected on a tiny hill.

The beautiful views from here include all the shrines of Pura Penataran Agung, beaches and southern Bali in the distance.

On the west is Pura Ulun Kulkul, famous for the main and most precious ‘kulkul’ (Balinese wooden slit gong) on the island. Kulkul is a signaling device to summon or convey special messages.

On the northern side of Pura Ulun Kulkul is Pura Merajan Selonding where the 'Bredah' inscription mentions a king in Besakih, and a set of ancient gamelan called ‘Selonding’ are kept.

besakih temple

Pura Gua, located on the eastern side of the main street, is the home of the dragon deity. There’s a big cave at the canyon of the river on the east that has its mouth closed due to erosion, but people still sometimes practise yoga there.

Pura Jenggala, southwest of Pura Penataran Agung, is also often called Pura Hyang Haluh by the local devotees. The ‘Setra Agung’ burial grounds is south of the temple.

Here are sacred ancient stone statues in the form of the mythical garuda bird. Pura Basukian Puseh Jagat is located southeast of Pura Penataran Agung, the main foundation of Besakih Temple (Pura Besakih).

Besakih Temple Address & Map Location

The address of Besakih Temple (Pura Besakih) is in the village of Besakih, Rendang Sub-district, Karangasem District, Bali, Indonesia.

About 68 km or 2 hours drive from from Ngurah Rai International Aiport, and 50 km or 1,5 hour drive from Ubud area.

Here is an accurate position of Besakih Temple (Pura Besakih) on the Google map

How to Get to Besakih Temple

Besakih Temple is located in the North West of Bali, near Bali's highest and most important and most spectacular Volcano, Mount Agung.

The area is on an altitude of about 1,000 metres and is located on the southwestern slopes of Mount Agung, which is easily accessible from any areas of Bali.

If you are coming from Kuta, Seminyak, Jimbaran, and Denpasar, by heading to Sanur, then taking the Kusamba Bypass to Klungkung.

Head north through Klungkung, taking the righthand turnoff at Menanga to Besakih. The journey fom Kuta should take about 2 hours, and depending on travel time and traffic conditions.

There is no public transpotation to get to Besakih Temple, so easiest way is by hiring car with driver.

Besakih Temple Entrance Fee

Visit to the Besakih Temple (Pura Besakih) are subject to an entrance fee of IDR 60,000 IDR per person for adult, and IDR 30,000 IDR per person for kid.

The ticket can be bought at the ticket counter in the parking which located just the entrance gate of Pura Besakih.

And the payment should be cash in Indonesian Rupiah (IDR), so please prepare small cash before you come here.

Before you go to the temple area please be respectful at all times. Wear a sarong while visiting this temple complex, and make sure bare knees and shoulders are not visible.

Besakih Temple Opening Hours

As a place of worship, the temple complex is open 24 hours a day however visiting hours for tourists and sightseeing is restricted to 8am to 5pm.

The best times to visit the temple complex is in the early morning or later in the evening as the complex tends to be less busy during these times.

The temple ceremony (odalan) falls on the 10th month of the Balinese calendar, in April. If traveling, try to reach Pura Besakih before 9am, when many tourist buses start to arrive, so that we can take in the lovely temple in the quiet Balinese morning.

There are official guides available for hire for a small fee to take you on a tour of Besakih Temple however this is not compulsory and visitors are welcome to explore at their own leisure.

Besakih Temple History

Besakih temple’s history dates back to megalithic times, with the most ancient section Pura Batu Madeg (temple of the Standing Stone) built around a central rock.

Balinese people believe the founder of Besakih to be Sri Markandeya, a Javanese priest who was in Bali around the 10th Century AD.

Besakih was already very important to the Balinese by the time the Javanese Majapahits conquered Bali is 1343.

pura besakih temple

After that time the temple became the central temple of the Gelgel and Klungkung courts.

The history of Besakih Temple (Pura Besakih) is also mentioned by the ancient manuscript and several inscription.

Some of them include The Babad Gunung Agung, The Journey of Rsi Markandeya (Markandeya Purana), Penempahan Inscription, Belanjong Inscription, Malat Gede Inscription, Bredah Inscription (Raja Purana Besakih), and Gaduh Sakti Inscription.

1. Babad Gunung Agung

The history of Besakih Temple which is located at the slope of Mount Agung is inseparable from the history of the great mountain itself. Babad Gunung Agung is mentioned about the presence of this highest mountain which experienced the eruption several times that gives impact on Pura Besakih.

First : The manuscript of Babad Gunung Agung which shows year in Caka "Candra Sangkala Rudhira Bumi (year 11 Caka or 89 AD) mentioned the Mount Agung erupted.

Second : The manuscript shows year in Caka "Candra Sangkala Gni Budhara" (year 13 Caka or 91 AD) mention the great eruption of Mount Agung for 2 months during the day and night. At this time Hyang Putran Jaya, Hyang Gni Jaya and Hyang Danuh down to Bali. Hyang Hyang Putran Jaya as Mahadeva glorified at the summit of Mount Agung as Ciwa. Hyang Gni Jaya glorified in Puncak Gunung Lempuyang as Iswara and Hyang Danuh glorified in Mount and Lake Batur as Vishnu.

Third : It mention the eruption on Sukra Pon wuku Tolu Sasih Kelima, shows year 70 Caka or 148 AD and there the Salodaka (sulfur water) is formed in the crater of Mount Agung. Salodaka is considered has a magical power by people in Bali and used at a great ceremony.

Fourth : Mentioned in the year 111 Saka or 189 AD showed by Caka "Candra Sangkala Çasih Wak Wak" (year 111 Caka) the Mount Agung erupted again.Fifth. Mention the Mount Agung erupted in 1885 Saka or 1963. On 18 March 1963 the great ceremony Eka Dasa Ludra is being held in Besakih.

2. Markandeya Purana

This manuscript mentions about Besakih Temple (Pura Besakih) history which related to holy sage who came from India and lived in Mount Rawung named Rsi Markandeya .

He was meditating in Mount Demulung then to Mount Hyang (Dieng) until he got a whisper to open the forest in Bali Island.The first mission, he led 8.000 peoples.

Arriving in Bali, he immediately ordered to cut the tree and open the forest. The first mission is failed, his followers got bad luck and died.Seeing this, Rsi Markandeya became sad and decided to return to Java with the rest of his followers.

He returned to meditate and eventually guided by God to perform the ceremony before doing the activity to open the forest. He returned again to Bali, but only brought 4.000 people also includes other sages.

Arriving back in Bali with other Priest and Rsi, he continues to implementing the God Guidance and preparing the ceremony. After completing the ceremony, all his people were ordered to open the wilderness forest.

By the will of God's permission, the activity to open the forest was succesfull, no trouble comes and the people are safe. After quite spacious, Rsi Markandya ordered the people to stop the forest opening activity.

Yoghi Markandya then distribute the land to his followers to be irrigated, farm land, as well as the yard of their house.

At the former location, Rsi Markandya planting a pitcher (Carat) which contained 5 types of metals such as gold, silver, copper, bronze and iron, which are called "Panca Datu" and Mirahadi gems (ruby major) with accompanied by ceremony and sprinkled by "Tirta Pangentas" (holy water).

The location is called "Basuki" which mean "safe" and then the small temple is builded. Furthermore the small temple is developed into the wider temple named Basukihan Temple. The Besukihan Temple is the forerunner of the founding of others temples at Besakih Temple (Pura Besakih).

3. Penempahan Inscription, Blanjong Inscription and Malat Gede Inscription.

Besakih Temple (Pura Besakih) history is mentioned on the ancient inscriptions such as Penempahan Inscription, Blanjong Inscription and Malat Gede Inscription.

All these inscriptione were written in Phalguna, 835 Saka or February 913. The inscription mentions the name of a king namely "Kesari Warmadewa" which ruled in Singhadwala.

The King is believed to be the "Shri Wira Dalem Kesari" or "Kesari Warmadewa" who founded the palace in the Besakih named Singhadwala or Singhamandawa.

The place to glorified the King Kesari is named "Merajan Selonding". Shri Kesari Warmadewa ruled in Bali in 882 AD until 914 AD.

4. Bredah Insription (Raja Purana Besakih) and Gaduh Sakti Inscription.

The history of Besakih Temple (Pura Besakih) is also mentioned in two inscriptions namely Bredah Inscription which is stored in Merajan Selonding (known as Lontar Raja Purana Besakih) and Gaduh Sakti Inscription (in Selat Village).

The two inscription are writen in the caka year "Candra Sangkala Nawa Sangapit Lawang" and "Candra Sangkala Lawang Apit Lawang" which show the year 929 Saka or 1007 AD during the reign of King Udayani Warmadewa.

Pura Besakih symbolize the grandeur of Mother Temple. Since its inception, this amazing temple has been witness the development of the Ancient Balinese culture and still preserve the history to the present.

Besakih Temple Ceremony & Tips

Besakih Temple (Pura Besakih) was nominated as a World Heritage Site in 1995, but as yet remains unvested.

There are at least 70 ceremonies or religious celebrations held each year here, as each shrine has its own anniversary, plus the big holidays based on the 210-day Balinese Hindu calendar system.

Pura Basukian, Pura Penataran Agung, and Pura Dalem Puri are the mother of all village’ temples, namely Pura Puseh, Pura Desa, and Pura Dalem. Their shrines contain religious literature referring how a temple must be built.

During the daytime Besakih becomes a crowded tourist trap, with self-professed ‘temple guards’, touts, hawkers, and more. Bear in mind that you should wear a proper top, a sarong, and a sash.

The best visiting times of the day are in the early morning and in the evening as the complex is much quieter during these hours. The official guides are easily identifiable with their symmetrically patterned traditional Batik shirts.

The service is not free, though not expensive at all either considering how big the complex is. There's no obligation to hire a guide for tours around the complex. Sarongs and sashes are available for rent.

They’re also available for purchase at the many stalls outside, and bargaining is recommended. Women on their periods are forbidden entry.

Besakih Temple Tour

Exploring the Besakih Temple complex means a lot of walking and stair climbing. One strategy is to visit the largest temple, Pura Penataran Agung first, then take your time meandering the other points of interest.

If you feel like checking out the more remote parts of the temple, head to Pura Pengubengan, which is 2km through the north at the northern end of the temple.

A little reading can make your visit of temple layout all the more enjoyable. According to Balinese Hinduism, the Trimurti or ‘3 shapes‘ of the Supreme Deity are represented in 3 separate temples.

Pura Kiduling Kretek (Temple South of the Bridge) represents Brahma the creator, Pura Batu Madeg (Temple of the Standing Stone) represents Wisnu the protector and Pura Penaturan Agung, the largest temple represents Siwa the destroyer.

The Panca Dewata (5 gods of the 4 directions and center) are represented by 5 smaller temples. These are Pura Penaturan Agung (center), Pura Ulun Kulkul (west), Pura Gelap (east), Pura Batu Medeg (north) and Pura Kiduling Kretek (south).

besakih temple

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Stunning landscapes, charming villages, and rich culture. Marvel at the dramatic volcanic landscape of Mount Batur, an active volcano down which molten lava spills. Explore the holiest Hindu site in Bali at the Mother Temple of Besakih.

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