Photo: Welcome to Pura Besakih.

Pura Besakih

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Pura Besakih, Bali’s largest and most sacred temple complex, graces the lower southwestern slopes of Gunung Agung at about 900 metres above sea level. The scale of the complex is impressive, encompassing almost two dozen temples traversing the slope.





Often shrouded in mist thanks to the altitude, and with the imposing volcano in the background, the scenery is dramatic and atmospheric. However for the visiting tourist, rather than the spiritual and mystical experience it could be, hordes of self-professed ‘temple guards’ and touts tend to give rise to frustration and a rather negative impression.

Every step one closer to the Gods. Photo taken in or around Pura Besakih, Sidemen, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Every step one closer to the Gods. Photo: Sally Arnold

The site is thought to have had spiritual significance since ancient times. The first shrine was believed to have been built in the eighth century in honour of Naga Besuki, a dragon deity and guardian of the mountains and oceans believed to inhabit Gunung Agung. Other shrines were added and stories tell of the founding of Pura Besakih during the 14th century Majapahit empire’s conquest of Bali. Despite its ancient origins, most of the modern temple complex has been reconstructed following a major earthquake in 1917. An eruption of Gunung Agung in 1963 saw the lava flow miss the temple by metres. This close call was seen as a miraculous sign that the gods wanted to show their power without destroying the temple built in their honour.

The symbolic centre of Pura Besakih is the lotus throne or padmasana in the central temple, Pura Penataran Agung, which dates to the 17th century and is dedicated to Shiva, the most venerated in the Balinese Hindu pantheon. Aligned along a single axis, a series of terraces and staircases leads to numerous gateways and courtyards designed to lead the worshippers on an upward journey and closer to the seat of the gods in the holy mountain. Two other main temples, Pura Batu Madeg dedicated to Vishnu and Pura Batu Kiduling Kreteg dedicated to Brahma, are surround by separate temples belonging to different regencies and ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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How to get there
The best way to reach Pura Besakih is via your own transport — the temple is a 40-minute drive from Sidemen, about an hour from Gunung Batur region or 90 minutes from Ubud. It’s possible to travel via public bemo, but this will make the trip an all day outing, and unless you are attending a ceremony, it’s not worth the extra time.

Pura Besakih
Slopes of Gunung Agung
Admission: 15,000 rupiah

Location map for Pura Besakih

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