Standing enchantingly backed by the magnificent Mount Batur overlooking its vast picturesque Lake, Pura Ulun Danu Batur is regarded as the second most important temple after Bali’s mother temple, Pura Besakih.
According to the concept Balinese Rwa Bhineda (The Balance of two opposites), Pura Ulun Danu Batur is regarded as Pradana (feminine) while Pura Besakih is purusha (masculine), thus the two temples complete the universal Balance. Whereas at Pura Besakih, God is worshipped to strengthen the soul of the people to achieve spiritual happiness, at Pura Batur, prayers are conducted to strengthen economic prosperity.
Lying at an altitude of 900 m above sea level, the temple is located at Kalanganyar Village, Kintamani sub district, Bangli regency, in the heart of Central Bali. Rebuilt in 1926, the temple is dedicated to Dewi Batari Ulun Danu, the goddess of lakes and rivers. "Ulun Danu" itself literally translates as "head of the lake". Until 1917, the Ulun Danu Batur Temple was nestled in the northwestern slope of Mount Batur. The large eruption of Mount Batur in 1917, which swallowed thousands of lives and ruined the entire area, equally sorely damaged the temple. The head of the village and the residents then decided to bring the surviving shrines with them and rebuilt the temple at higher ground in Kalanganyar. In the following 1926 eruption, the entire the Batur village, including the temple, was once again buried by lava. But the 11-tiered meru shrine of Dewi Danu located in the temple compound survived. After the catastrophe not only was the temple rebuilt on higher ground, but the village was also shifted higher.
This temple is the core of all water temples in Central Bali. It is paramount among all water temple systems which has great authority over all irrigation systems that draw water from Lake Batur in Bali’s famed Subak landscape
. This unique system, which is a recognized UNESCO World Cultural Heritage
, comprises not only the technical aspects of rice cultivation and irrigation but is moreover part and parcel of the social and religious unity on Bali.
Pura Batur comprises nine different temples, containing in total 285 shrines and pavilions dedicated to the gods and goddesses of water, agriculture, holy springs, art, crafts, and more. Pura Penataran Agung Batur, the principal temple, has five main courtyards. Its most dominant shrines are the 11-tiered meru situated in the inner and most sacred courtyard, three 9-tiered merus dedicated to Mount Batur, Mount Abang, and Ida Batara Dalem Waturenggong, the deified king of the Gelgel dynasty who ruled from 1460 to 1550. The eight other temples are Penataran Pura Jati, Pura Tirta Bungkah, Pura Taman Sari, Pura Tirta Mas Mampeh, Pura Sampian Wangi, Pura Gunarali, Pura Padang Sila, and Pura Tuluk Biyu.
Legend has it that in ancient time God Pasupati (Shiva) moved the peak of Mount Mahameru in India and divided this into two parts. He brought one part with his left hand and the other with his right hand. Parts of that taken with his right hand became Mount Agung a throne for his son God Putranjaya (Mahadeva Shiva) and the that in his left hand became Mount Batur, a throne for Dewi Danu, the Goddess of the Lake (the manifestation of Vishnu). This legend made the 2 biggest mountains in Bali as two symbolic elements "of man and woman" (Purasa and Pradana) or two manifestations of the origin of the source; God (Ida Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa).
The Danu Kerthi ceremony that is held every five years, is the ceremony where people offer animal sacrifices by drowning cows, goats, chickens, ducks, and pigs, together with offerings to the lake. The ceremony is held to show gratitude for the fertile soil and prosperous life given, as well as the belief that the ceremony will help create a cosmic balance on earth. Another large ceremony held annually at the Ulun Danu temple is the Ngusaba Kedasa, which commemorates the day the temple location was shifted, and to show gratitude for the blessings given by Dewi Danu, who helped inhabitants survive the catastrophe.
Even though the temple is no longer located at the original site, the charm and the spirit of the temple remain as strong as ever. Also inside the temple compound there is a Buddhist temple where Buddhists from around the island come to pray. During a number of Buddhist holy festivals, such as Chinese New Year, the Barongsai dance is performed in the temple. This shows that high tolerance between different religions continues to exist and is well preserved in Bali.