Thursday, 11 December 2014

Indonesia, Bali (3 Temples)

There are more than 20 000 Hindu temples in Bali and we visited 4 while we were there. As soon as we met our driver, I opened a conversation on the belief system of a Hindu. My curiosity had been unplugged and it's great that our driver is a staunch Hindu. He really did try his best in explaining to me, but I must admit that Hinduism could be quite complicated and confusing to understand. 

So, I think I will just leave religion out of this entry and instead, post the scenic view I have enjoyed during my visit.

If you only have room for one temple in your Bali itinerary, Besakih Temple is one of the attractions you would want to head to. This temple is situated on the slopes of Mount Agung, an active volcano in Karangasem regency. 

The compound is so huge for a temple; it's no wonder people here called it the mother temple. In order to get to the epicenter of the temple, we have to climb about 200 steps, but it's really worth it. Besides, the air was cool and clean. 

Besakih temple is deemed to have existed since the 10th century and is where all Balinese come together to pray. In total, there are actually 23 separate temples within the site and each temple differs according to deity and purpose. The caste system also seems to play a part here although I don't think it influences the Balinese way of life that much as compared to those practised in India.

A small garden in the temple. We could see some parts of Bali from here. Our driver wanted to pray at the main temple and we followed him there. The main temple was actually out of bounds to tourists but we managed to stay in until he was done. There were, however, many large wild dogs in the compound and they were vicious-looking. I had to remind myself not to run or risk being chased.

The second temple that we went to was Goa Lawah Temple. It's located in the Klungkung Regency and our reason for this visit is to see the bats.

The darkness beyond the cave gave me goosebumps. As if it's not creepy enough with all the bats hanging upside down at the mouth of the cave. 

I wondered how the bats were at night since bats are nocturnal animals. I asked our driver in my most casual tone whether the temple keepers feed the bats every day, but he said that the bats find their own food. Woo.. I wouldn't want to be anywhere near these bats at night.

If you notice, every main temples have these three doors. According to our driver, we could only use the side doors to gain entry because Hindus believe that the door at the centre is built for the Gods, so human beings are not allowed to use it.

There were quite a number of chickens at the temple. I was curious so I went to do some researching on my own. Apparently, chickens are part of the animal sacrifices made during religious ceremonies. The Hindus believed that when an animal is sacrificed, the demon is appeased. Hence, the balance between positive and negative force is restored. 

Besides chickens, dogs, pigs and buffaloes might also be used as animal sacrifices. Hmm.. this explains why there were quite a number of dogs at Besakih! The third temple that we went to is Tirta Empul, a water temple that is dedicated to Vishnu. 

This temple is very near to Ubud, so we visited it on another day. The temple is well-known for its holy water and that is why Hindus from all across Indonesia visit this temple as part of their pilgrimage.

It is here in Tampak Siring that Hindus bathed and prayed in the holy water to cleanse themselves. There were also non-Hindus who took a dip because they believed in the curative power of the water.

After visiting the temples, I feel that Hinduism practiced in Bali is quite different from those in Singapore. Here, the temples were always bustling with social activities and ceremonies, with Gamelan orchestra played at times. Not just the older generation, the younger ones also seem to take up major roles in the temples. You can say that the whole community lives in the temple and each member is an important unit. 

Our last temple visit in Bali is Uluwatu Temple. But I'll write about it in my next post, together with my experience watching the Kecak Dance. Until then, stay tuned. 

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