Besakih Temple located at Karangasem Regency, eastcoast Bali. A climb north, through the astonishing landscapes of Bukit Jambul, ascends over 900 meters up the slopes of Gunung Agung to Pura Besakih, the holiest of all temples in Bali. It originated most probably as a prehistoric terraced sanctuary where worship and offerings were made to the god of Gunung Agung, the dominant landscape element in the Balinese world. Over a thousand years and more, it was enlarged and added to until it grew into the present complex of about 30 temples.
In the 10th century it was apparently a state temple. According to inscriptions kept here, an important event took place in the year 1007. If can only be guessed that this was associated with death rituals for Queen Mahendradatta, Udayana's co-ruier who died the previous year. Since the 1 5th century it was the state temple of the Geigel-Kiungkung dynasty which built a series of small temples in honorof itsdeified rulers. Now it is the state temple for the provincial and national governments which meet all expenses. Today, Pura Besakih is revered by all Balinese as the "mother temple" of Bali.
Within the Besakih complex, the paramount sanctuary is the Pura Panataran Agung which rears its lofty merus on a high bank of terraces, Steps ascend in a long perspective to the austere split gate. Inside the main courtyard stands the three-seated shrine enthroning the Trisakti, the trinity of Brahma, Visnu and Siwa, During festivals the shrines are wrapped in colored cloth symbolic of the deities. The Pura Panataran Agung and two other important temples higher up the slope likewise together symbolize the Trisakti. In the center Pura Panataran Agung is hung with white banners for Siwa; to the right, Pura Kiduling Kreteg vyith red banners for Brahma; and Pura Batu Mddeg, to the left, with black banners for Visnu. These latter two temples are taken care of by . the Karangasem and Bangli regencies respectively, certain other shrines being the responsibility of the other regencies. All of Bali comes together at Pura Besakih. Religiously, oneness is symbolized in the padmasana in Pura Panataran Agung, dedicated to Sang Hyang Widdhi, the Supreme God.
Pura Besakih is most fascinating at festival times, but it is grand and impressive whenever you go there. The drive up the mountain to Besakih, with a stopover in Klungkung for sight-seeing and shopping, takes a full day. To resume the tour of East Bali, if you are staying in Denpasar, it is best to leave early in the morning the following day. By passing through Klungkung before noon, you may choose a site to lunch on the beach or in the shaded countryside and visit the Bat Cave, tshing villages and Tenganan before reaching Karangasem in mid-afternoon. Now that the new road linking Rendang and Karangasem has been finished, it is possible to make a Besakih- Karangaserm round trip comfortably in a day. You may be lucky to arrive in Bali during a time when eastern villages are holding ceremonies. Festivals, unique to these villages, should not be missed, so check the calendar of events at your hotel to find a good time to visit.
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