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Rising majestically on the western slopes of Mount Agung, and referred to as the Mother Temple of Hindu Bali, is Pura Besakih, or the Besakih temple, covering a vast area that offers breathtaking mountain scenery surrounding this beautiful and artistic temple complex.
Facing Mt. Agung’s highest peak, believed to be the abode of the gods, and located at an altitude of 900 meters, Pura Besakih is built in the village of Besakih, in the eastern part of Bali. The name Besakih comes from the word “Basuki”, derived from the word “Wasuki” which means Salvation in the classical Sanskrit language. Whereas, in the Samudramanthana mythology, the same name “Besuki” in fact refers to the Dragon-God “Naga Besukian”, who inhabited Gunung Agung, the main volcano in Bali.
This grand temple complex has been revered as a holy place since ancient times. The first recorded mention of its existence comes from an inscription dating back to 1007 AD. It is known that since the 15th century Besakih was regarded as the central temple of Hinduism in Bali.
Pura Penataran Agung, or the “Great Temple of State” is the center of the temple complex and is is Bali’s main place of worship, a complex comprising twenty-two temples on six rising terraces set on parallel ridges.
This complex expresses the essential belief of the Balinese known as Tri Hita Kirana, meaning that life on earth must be lived and kept in balance and harmony between man and God, man and society and his fellow human beings, and man and his natural environment.
During a full moon, Balinese and pilgrims throng to the temple. During the festival of Odalan, the temple is most elaborately decorated. Odalan is celebrated on every 210th day.
Away from the loud parties of Kuta Beach, leaving the thrilling waves of Uluwatu behind and the modern facilities of Nusa Dua, then traveling beyond enchanting Ubud, a visit to Pura Besakih is truly a spiritual experience into the heart of Balinese religious and cultural life.
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To reach the temple complex, you have to stroll up a footpath for about 200 meters. On both sides of the path you will find beautiful views, and feel the breeze on your way to the temples. Otherwise, you may prefer to rent a motorbike offered by the locals.
This temple is very easy to find, as most people know it as one of the best tourist destinations in Bali. There are several starting points that you may choose to take:
From Kuta, it takes about 2 hours to get here. Simply head east towards Sanur, then follow the fast coastal route, which is connected to the Kusamba Bypass at Tohpati. Then go north until you find the road sign to Besakih, and after a few kilometers from this point turn north.
If you are staying around Klungkung, then Besakih is about 20 kilometers north of the town center. Take the Bemo – the small public buses– that will take you to Besakih from Klungkung. Bemos are most frequent in the morning, and it is recommended to change bemos at Rendang, halfway between Klungkung and Besakih.
If you come from the north of Denpasar, it is about 25 kilometers to reach Besakih by car. However, if you stay in the eastern part of Bali such as at Tirta Gangga, Candidasa, or Amed, you can reach Besakih by taking a smaller inland road from Karangasem. This will lead you to the crossroad between Besakih and Klungkung at Rendang, and then turn right to reach Besakih Temple.
During your hour-long drive, you will enjoy beautiful views traveling through forests, villages, and rice fields. If you are willing to make a short stop in one of the villages, you will see how the locals live, and learn a bit about their unique houses.