Nestled amid sweeping rice paddies, breathtaking mountains and peaceful streams lies Bali's most iconic temple, Besakih Temple. For more than 1,000 years, Besakih Temple (known by the local people as 'Mother Temple') has sat 1,000m upon Mount Agung's southwestern slopes. A unique and artistic attraction, the Besakih Temple is the biggest and holiest temple complex in all of Bali and features at least 86 different temples including the Great Temple of State (Pura Penataran Agung).
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. The primal centre for all ceremonial activities, Besakih Mother Temple is also Bali's only temple to be open to all devotees of any caste group. While tourists can visit most of the temples in the complex, many of the inner courtyards are reserved for religious pilgrims and are closed to the public.
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.
As the complex's largest temple, Pura Penataran Agung features a number of different areas that represent the seven layers of the universe - each with its own shrine. Since ancient times, Pura Batu Madeg was already considered a holy place and its central stone marks the area where an 8th century Hindustani monk had revelations during his isolation. When completed, it was named Basuki in a nod to Naga Besukian, the dragon deity said to inhabit Mount Agung. It eventually evolved to Besakih as it is now known today.
Located just a 30 minutes walk from the base, Pura Pangubengan is the closest to the peak of Mount Agung and offers spectacular views over Bali. As a place of worship and deep cultural significance, the temple complex is open 24 hours a day, however, visiting hours for tourists and sightseeing tours are restricted to 8am to 5pm. Modesty is expected at Besakih Temple and sarongs and sashes are available for hire. The best time 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 hours. There are official guides available to hire for a small fee, although this is not compulsory and visitors are welcome to explore at their own leisure.