En route to Ubud, we took a tour into the ‘Mother Temple’ of the island at Besakih Temple. It is located on the slopes of Mount Agung, the highest peak (volcano) on the island at over 1000 metres, and is over 1000 years old. There are actually many temples here. There are temples for each of the 8 regions of Bali, temples dedicated to Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu who together exemplify the 1 God, and even temples to specific groups of people. For example there is an iron workers temple where the colour red is used extensively to symbolize the fire used by iron workers.
The Hindu priests are both men and women of the highest caste. Typically, they live their ‘earthly’ life first by having a family, and then once the children are grown, they become a priest. At that time, they give up all their worldly possessions and move to the temple sanctuary and become priests.
The entire complex is built up the mountainside. Temples are routinely maintained, and just as the churches of Europe are often surrounded by scaffolding, so are the temples here. The thatch roofs need to replaced when they wear thin. If local materials are used, a roof will last about 50% longer than if imported materials are used. But it is harder to get local materials, so they end up replacing the roofs every 50 or so years. Once the repairs are complete, the temple cannot be used until a special ceremony has been held to bless the new building. The same is true of any new building in Bali – it cannot be used until it has been blessed.
There was a cremation ceremony at one of the regional temples and Mike was allowed to photo although we could not enter the temple where the ceremony was being held. This was likely a more important or wealthy person since it is expensive to hold a cremation ceremony. More commonly, group ceremonies are held in local villages, usually twice a year.
All temples consist of the same basic layout. There is an outer temple, a middle, and an inner temple. The entire temple is surrounded by a wall, with large gates marking the entrance to each section. The gates are framed by statues often indicating the type of temple. Each area contains different types of buildings. The outer section is used for group gatherings and there are often shelters for dancers and drum bands (see photo below of a drum band at the dance we attended). The middle area contains buildings where food is prepared and ceremonial items are stored, and the inner temple contains the large pavilions for the gods. There is a large open pavilion where the gods are supposed to assemble to watch over temple ceremonies. And there are open bales where offerings are made in many places. When making offerings, the person must wear their sarong, sash around the waist and be shoeless (as seen at left). Visitors to temples must also be appropriately covered – usually a sarong is worn which can be rented if necessary (we brought our own). Incense is usually included in the offering along with a blessing of holy water.
Once in Ubud, we arranged to see one more dance performance. This time we went to an evening performance (along with MANY Japanese tourists who are everywhere here in Ubud) to see the Legong Dance performed by a professional troop.
The performance had several ‘acts’, the main one being the Legong dance itself. The Legong (at right) is performed by several young women (girls actually) and the movements – both body and facial are very intricate. There is a lengthy story of the Legong – if you are interested, click here
There was an entry procession, a welcome dance, and a warrior dance – the Baris Tunggal (photoed at right). This dance included a solo depicting the moods of a young heroic warrior. The other dances included a Barong dance (photoed above left), as well as performances by the drum band(below left), and a dance with the Jauk (at lower right). The Jauk is a masked character with long hair and
fingernails who openly expresses his feelings – it is a kind but crude character which is loved by the Balinese for its openness.
And once again, we had a lovely room in our hotel – Tegal Sari in Ubud. We were at the end of the complex, and our room looked out over the rice fields. We could hear the chanting at the temples in the distance, the clacking of the bird chasing windmills and smell the fires which were set in the rice fields once they were harvested.
The fields were totally worked by hand and we saw them harvesting the fields right beside our rooms. All of the supplies were hauled in by hand in the morning, and carried away at days end. Of course, all on their heads 🙂
And with this peaceful scene, we headed off from Bali. It was the perfect break for us and Mike and Kyle both were much rested to head back to school. Definitely somewhere we would highly recommend and will hopefully return to one day.