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Hindu Temples of Bali (Indonesia)


Based on the inscriptions that have been found, it can be said that recorded Balinese history began in the 8th century ACE. Among Balinese kings, many of whom left written statements that also alluded to the picture of the composition of government at that time were Udayana, Jayapangus, Jayasakti, and Anak Wungsu. In the Blanjong Inscription (913 AD) made during the reign of Sri Kesari Warmadewa used the word 'Walidwipa' which refers to Bali.

Introduction to Temples

In contrast to the temples in Java, the temples in Bali (called the Pura), are part of the life of Balinese people who are predominantly Hindus. Pura in Bali is a place of Hindu worship. Every Hindu family has a family temple to worship Hyang Widhi (Supreme God) and family ancestors, so the number of temples on the island of Bali amounts to thousands.

Types of Temples

Pura Kahyangan Desa. Each village generally has three main temples called Pura Tiga Kahyangan or Tri Kahyangan Temple (tri = three), which is the temple of Sang Hyang Widi Wasa's worship in three manifestations of His power: Pura Desa to worship the Lord Brahma, Pura Puseh to worship Lord Vishnu, and Pura Dalem to worship the God Shiva. Pura Desa is also called Bale Agung, because the temple is generally located in the center of this village is also used as a place to carry out village deliberations.


Pura Kahyangan Jagat. Kahyangan Temple is a place where the general public worships God in all its embodiments as well as places to worship the spirits of the forefathers. Which is included in the temple of Kahyangan Jagat, among others, is Pura Shad Kahyangan (shad = six), the temple which is located in six great Kahyangan locations in Bali. Pura Shad Khayangan consists of: Uluwatu Luhur Temple, Lempuyang Temple, Goa Lawah Temple, Batukaru Temple, Pura Bukit Pengalengan and Besakih Temple. Pura Shad Kahyangan is believed to be the spiritual island of Bali and is a center of religious activity. In these famous temples Lord Shiva is worshipped.


In addition to Sad Kahyangan Temple, which belongs to the category of Kahyangan Jagat is the Dhang Kahyangan Temple, a temple built by spiritual leaders in the past. Most of the Dhang Kahyangan Temple has a close connection with Dhang Hyang Nirartha, a Hindu (Hindu priest) of the Majapahit Kingdom. During the reign of Dalem Waturenggong, around 1411 Saka (1489 ACE), Dhang Hyang Nirartha, also known as Dhang Hyang Dwijendra, held a spiritual journey around Bali, Nusa Penida and Lombok. In some places Dhang Hyang Hyang Nirartha visited several temples, such as Uluwatu Temple, Rambut Siwi Temple, etc. He is held in high esteem in Bali and these temples visited by him are also celebrated temples.


Pura Luhur. Almost every district in Bali has Pura Luhur (Luhur - High), the temple whose Brahmotsava (The special/installation day) is commemorated by the people by way of organizing piodalan involving thousands of people. Tanah Lot Temple, Goa Lawah, and Pura Uluwatu are also included in the pura nuh luhur category.

Pura Kawitan. This temple is a place of worship for family ancestors. Included in this category are: Sanggah-Pengerajan, Pratiwi, Paibon, Panti, Dadia or Dalem Dadia, Upgrading Dadia, and Pedharman. The history of pura kawitan can not be separated from the history of the kingdoms in Bali.


Swagina temple. This temple is a place of worship for a community group with a particular profession or livelihood. For example, Pura Melanting is a temple for traders, Pura Subak for farmer groups, etc.


Design of the Puras

Balinese temple layout, arranged in three zones (mandalas)

Unlike the common towering indoor Indian  Hindu temple, puras are designed as an open air place of worship within enclosed walls (like in Kerala), connected with a series of intricately decorated gates between its compounds. These walled compounds contain several shrines, meru  (towers), and bale (pavilions). The design, plan and layout of the pura follows the trimandala concept of Balinese space allocation. Three mandala  zones arranged according to a sacred hierarchy:

  1. Nista mandala (jaba pisan): the outer zone, which directly connects the pura compound with the outer realm, and the entrance to the temple. This zone usually takes the form of an open field or a garden that can be used for religious dance performances, or act as an additional space for preparations during religious festivals.
  2. Madya mandala (jaba tengah): the middle zone of the temple, where the activity of adherents takes place, and also the location for supporting facilities of the temple. In this zone usually several pavilions are built, such as the bale kulkul  (wooden Slit drum  tower), bale gong(gamelan  pavilion), wantilan  (meeting pavilion), bale pesandekan, and bale perantenan, the temple's kitchen.
  3. Utama mandala (jero): the holiest and the most sacred zone within the pura. This enclosed and typically highest of the compounds usually contains a padmasana , the towering lotus  throne of the highest god, Acintya  (the Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa , or "All-in-one God", in modern Balinese), the pelinggih meru  (a multi-tiered tower-shrine), and several pavilions, such as bale pawedan (vedic  chanting pavilion), bale piyasanbale pepelik (offering pavilion), bale panggunganbale murda, and gedong penyimpenan (storehouse of the temple's relics).

However, the layout rules for arrangements the facilities of the two outer zones, nista mandala and madya mandala, are somewhat flexible. Several structures, such as the bale kulkul, could be built as outer corner tower; also, the perantenan (temple's kitchen) could be located in the Nista mandala.

Bali Temple Architecture

Bali Temple Plan View

Jaba means "outside." This is the first courtyard of a Balinese temple. One enters it through the split gate (A) or candi bentar. It serves as an antechamber for social gatherings and ritual preparations. Contains thatched-roofed storage sheds, bale for food preparation, etc. 
     Jeroan means "inside." The inner courtyard of a Balinese temple, the temple proper. Here are all the shrines, altars, and meru towers that serve as temporary places for the gods during their visits to Bali. This enclosure, behind the closed gate (paduraksa), is the "holy of the holiest."

A) candi bentar -The split gate, two halves of a solid, elaborately carved tower cut clean through the middle, each half separated to allow entrance into the temple. Its form is probably derived from the ancient candi of Java.

B) kulkul - a tall alarm tower with a wooden split drum, to announce happenings in the temple or to warn of danger

C) paon - the kitchen, where offerings are prepared

D) bale gong - a shed or pavilion where the gamelan is kept

E) bale - for pilgrims and worshippers

F) paduraksa - A second, closed ceremonial gateway, guarded by raksasa, leading to the inner courtyard (jeroan). This massive monumental gate is similar in design to the candi bentarbut is raised high off the ground on a stone platform with a narrow entrance reached by a flight of steps. Often behind the door is a stone wall which is meant to block demons from entering the jeroan This gate is only opened when there's a ceremony in progress.

G) side gate - aIways open to allow entrance to the jeroan

H) paruman (or pepelik) - a pavilion in the middle of the jeroan which serves as a communal seat for the gods

I & J) shrines for Ngrurah Alit and Ngrurah Gede, secretaries to the gods, who make sure that the proper offerings are made to the gods

K) gedong pesimpangan - a masonry building with (usually) locked wooden doors dedicated to the local deity, the ancestor founder of the village

L) padmasan - the stone throne for the sun-god Surya, almost always located in the uppermost right hand corner of the temple, its back fadng the holy mountain Gunung Agung. Sometimes there's a shrine for Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma here as well.

M) meru - a three-roofed shrine for Gunung Agung, the holiest and highest mountain of Bali

N) meru - an 11-roofed shrine dedicated to Sanghyang Widhi, the highest Balinese deity

O) meru - a one-roofed shrine dedicated to Gunung Batur, a sacred mountain in northern Bangli Regency

P) Maospait Shrine - dedicated to the divine settlers of Bali from the Majapahit Empire. The symbol of these totemic gods is the deer, so this shrine can be recognized by the sculpture of a deer's head or stylized antlers.

Q) taksu - The seat for the interpreter of the deities. The taksu inhabits the bodies of mediums and speaks through them to announce the wishes of the gods to the people. Sometimes the medium is an entranced dancer.

R & S) bale piasan - simple sheds for offerings

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