For more than 1,000 years, Besakih Temple (known by the local people as ‘Mother Temple’) has sat 1,000m up on Mount Agung’s southwestern slopes. A unique and artistic temple complex, this biggest and holiest of all temples in Bali features at least 86 temples including the Great Temple of State (Pura Penataran Agung).
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.
The primal centre for all ceremonial activities, Besakih Mother Temple is Bali’s only temple to be open to all devotees of any caste group. You can visit most of the temples in the complex however 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 and each has its own shrines. 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 approximately 30 minutes’ walk to higher ground, Pura Pangubengan is the closest to the peak of Mount Agung and offers spectacular views. There are also four temples in Besakih complex that reflect forms of God, all located at compass points. To the north is Pura Batu Madeg, to the south is Pura Kiduling Kreteg, to the east is Pura Gelap, to the west is Pura Ulun Kulkul.
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. Modesty is expected and sarongs and sashes are available for hire. 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. 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.