The island of Bali is believed to be the abode of the gods. There’s a temple in every nook and corner of this picturesque island. Every traditional Balinese home has a family temple; every village has a village temple. There are market temples in the markets, rice temples in rice terraces. There are mountain temples and sea temples. And the list doesn’t end here. There are nine directional temples to protect Bali from evil spirits. Then, there are the royal temples dedicated to Bali’s powerful kings. It is no wonder then that Bali is called the island of a thousand temples. Every temple on the island has an interesting legend behind it. In this feature, Soulveda journeys to a few temples on the island, and brings to you the stories behind them.
With 23 shrines in its complex, Pura Besakih is called the ‘Mother Temple’. It’s considered one of the holiest temples on the island. Situated at a height of 30,000 feet on Mount Agung, an active volcano, the flowing lava missed the temple complex by merely a few metres during a volcanic eruption in 1963. This incident reinforced the belief that the sacred temple is home to a powerful deity.
Another legend narrates how the temple got its name. It is said that in the eighth century, a monk had intended to build homes for people in the area. When the construction was completed, he is said to have named the complex ‘Basuki’ after Naga Besukian, a dragon deity believed to be inhabiting Mount Agung. But over the years, several other shrines were built in the area, and the name evolved to Besakih.
Pura Goa Gajah signifies the union of Hinduism and Buddhism, which has uniquely influenced the principles of Balinese Hinduism.