The beautiful island of Bali was not only offering a wide range of beaches to relax and enjoy the sun, but also a unique cultural experience when visiting some of the many Hindu temples. Known as the island of thousand temples, Bali was actually believed to have as many as 20,000 temples in total. While a lot of the smaller temples could be found in the backyards of private houses, the bigger ones were publicly accessible and spread out over the entire island.
Set at the coastline, on the slopes of volcanoes, in lakes or local villages, Bali’s beautiful temples represented a unique twist on Hindu culture. Having arrived from India in the 15th century, Hinduism had only survived on Bali while creating an interesting blend with local spirit believes. The result was open, courtyard like places of worship with towers, pavilions, split gates and enclosure walls that could not be found anywhere else in the world. Different physical appearances of each individual temple, colorful decorations, ceremonies and offerings were truly making each temple visit of Bali an unforgettable experience.
Physical Appearance of Bali’s Temples
Volcanic Stone Temples
It seemed that the most used material was a grey volcanic stone, shaped in all kinds of different forms to build monolithic temples like the UNESCO enlisted Supreme Water Temple of Pura Ulun Danu Batur with its sawtooth style central tower. Other temples were taken to an extreme level of detail with seemingly infinite ornamentations or free-standing statues as seen at the beautifully carved temple of Pura Maduwe Karang.
Red Brick Temples
The red brick temples on Bali appeared to be less elaborate and representative due to the cheaper choice of material. As a result, the level of detail was varying greatly, from added high level carvings to simple stone veneer plates that were cut and set in place. A very rare appearance was a very simple red brick temple without added details around the area of Tabanan.
Temples with Straw Roofs
Straw roof pavilions could be found as Black stone Temples in private backyards of Legian, or as tiered versions of temple Pura Luhur Batukaru, which was set in the forest and at the lopes of volcano Gunung Batukaru. The extensive Mother Temple of Pura Besakih came with a lot of massive and tall tiered straw roofs, while the Lake Temple Pura Ulun Danu Bratan from the cover photo convinced rather with its elegant beauty. It’s interesting to note that tiered roofs always come in uneven numbers of roof extensions.
Split Stone Entrance Gates
While the temples on Bali came in such a broad range of different styles, materials, functions and layouts, all of these structures still seemed to have one thing in common: split stone entrance gates. These split stone gates were unique to Bali and seemed to be precisely sliced little temples that had been pulled apart to give access to visitors.
Balinese Temples in actual Use
Most Temples on Bali appeared as pure stone, brick or wood structures, but others were richly decorated with colorful fabric, flags and umbrellas. These decorations seemed to have been used during different ceremonies and offerings.
Ceremonies and Offerings
Watching the ceremonies and seeing the colorful offerings was definitely one of the highlights when visiting Balinese temples. The traditional dresses, typical gong music and atmospheric decorations seemed very unique to Bali’s culture and should not be missed when visiting the island. While the bigger Offerings were arranged for the ceremonies, smaller flower offerings were put together daily by seemingly every single local person of Bali.
Temple Locations on Bali
While most temples were set inland on Bali, some were built in very atmospheric locations at the coast of the island. Probably the most famous shore temples were Pura Uluwatu on Bukit Peninsula at the very southern tip of Bali and the rock temple of Pura Tanah Lot on the western coast. But whatever the location, material, decoration, ceremony, or offering, all the temples on Bali seemed to be well worth a visit. After all, every temple was unique and providing a welcome contrast to the many beautiful Beaches of Bali.
Would you enjoy visiting different temples and attending ceremonies on Bali as well?
Find more Information about Bali here
Driving Conditions on Bali
Crater Rim drive by Munduk
Big Crater ride by Gunung Batur
Winding Coastal Road by Amed