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BESAKIH TEMPLE

The Temple
In Balinese word, temple is " Pura ", which might be quiet a new name for the sacred place on the island, where Balinese praying to good on certain days. Historical facts such as various inscriptions issued by kings clearly mention such a place is called " Hyang ". Now the word Hyang is used to refer the holy spirit of ancestor. It was correct that original belief of Balinese as well as all ethnics in Indonesia was the worship of ancestor's holy soul in various form of rituals. Thus when was the name of Hyang changed into Pura? It is an interesting question to explore, while formal source is not available, we can just understand it in the level of theory.

During Indian influence was spreading into South East Asia, the Sanskrit words become very special among the local. Many subjects were given Sanskrit names, such as kingdom, people, king, and even places. City and town in Sanskrit is "Pur" such as Singapura, Sukapura, Amblapura, and others imitating the name of cities in India such as Nagpur, Rajpur, Kantipur, and others. The development of cities in Indonesia started from king palace and it's square, except commercial centers such as Jakarta, Surabaya, Balikpapan, Makassar, and others which were built during colonialization.

Hindu king from 11th century on, had been inspired strongly by Hindu tradition with it's Sanskrit language. The story about world salvation "Avatar" might have became real example of the thought inspiring the king status in the society and heaven. King Erlangga of Mataram, now Yogyakarta in Central Java, a kingdom of 1019 AD mentioned in his inscription that he was the incarnation of god Wisnu, so did kings in Balinese ancient kingdom. The king was the center of culture, and was considered the one who is able to bring the prosperity of the emporium and it's people.

A thought among Hindu literature is also mention that this world is divided into 2 parts, those are " Buana Alit " and " Buana Agung " Buana Alit literally means " small world ", while Buana Agung means Big world, or with most historian's terminology
Buana Alit is called micro-cosmos, and Buana Agung is macro-cosmos. The thought further asserted that Buana Alit has the character of Buana Agung, or is given the characters of Buana Agung. This small world is identified with human being, or miniature of the macro-cosmos. So that is said that human being also has got divine characters ( a kind of pantheistic thought ). Sanskrit language is very good in expressing this thought, since it introduced gender. For example 2 entities have the same characters with different nature such as one is powerful while the other one weaker, they differentiate with gender. Nouns with ultima [ a ] refers masculine gender, and with ultima [ i ] refers feminism. For example " Putra " means son, and "Putri" means daughter, Dewa means male gods, and Dewi means goddess, Santa means peaceful in the world, and Santi means peaceful in the heart, and so on. So it might be from this ever living thought that the concept micro-cosmos and macro-cosmos had given a strong inspiration of the kingdoms. The king than identified himself as micro-cosmos, as the the miniature of macro-cosmos, or as personalization of all-mighty. The king was born to save the world with the human being, and got the divine revelation. Due to his absolute power, and his autocratic style of managing the kingdom, he easily identified himself with the story of " Avatar " or in Balinese called " Awatara ". The story of Awatara mentioned that god some time needs to incarnate into visible being to save the world from corruption, tyranny, and natural catastrophe. According to the Hindu literature there had been 10 consecutive awataras during the world history, and the 11th is yet to come when the world will really in need.

Departing from the inscription those mentions the king as the incarnation of god we could not find the indication about when the Hyang was changed into Pura, since almost all inscriptions before 1345 AD still mentioned the temple as Hyang. Although a very strong indication was found in Cambodia during the 7th century that the king was personalized in a statue, so did their family for the commemoration. It was also in Java some old stone sculptures have been identified as the personification of kings, which are mostly found in all Candis ( temple ). An ethnic ritual in Kalimantan called " Tiwah " give an indication how a person dead and given homage by his family and a chieftain by his people. It was also in Pararaton a manuscript written probably during the 13th century mentioned about the ceremony called çraddha. The ceremony is for the dead king with, something like cremation ceremony in current Bali. Some inscriptions also giving clues to the thought that when a king died his body or ash preserved in a candi, such as " the king is çinandika ..... means the king was symbized at ......"Based on these facts Dr. Stutterheim wrote that the ancient temples in Java supposed to be the co-memorial tomb. Archaeological excavations then was carried out at some temples, and was found like a pallets with 7 or 9 pallets. This is supposed to be the place of the king ash. But this opinion has been opposed by Dr. Soekmono on his dissertation " Candi It's Function and Meaning " that the temple in Java nothing to do with ash of a cremated king. He support his exposition with the tradition in Bali during building the family temple or other temples. He found that what is a sculpture of a king that was found in the temple, he asserted that this is only the symbol of king holy soul, while the ash was thrown to the sea or into the river. So he is against the idea of personal apotheosisme in Indonesia. So there is no indication that the king at that moment put himself as parallel with god. Based on above description it is not possible that the name of Pura was given by the king during the period of old Javanese kingdom or old Balinese kingdom the period that covers before 14th century.

If we see Balinese kingdom after the invasion of Majapahit since 1345 AD to 17th AD we found that the spirit of king as micro-cosmos was still alive, even in a more stronger sense. One of Balinese king in 16the century called himself as " Dewa Agung " a title is truly means the great god. " Dewa" means god, "Agung " means The Great. So it might be the concept of this " king-god" thus grew fertile during this period. According to my opinion this thought was really developed and become the tradition of the palace. Since the king is the personification of micro-cosmos, as the miniature of macro-cosmos, then the palace is called " Puri ", and the temple is called " Pura " a two parallel entity with different nature. Since the king is the symbol of power in the world who full in control to the world and it's contents, while the god is the all-mighty and controls them all. So between Pura and Puri such a 2 parallel source of power.

Among various pura in Bali it can be grouped into : puras built by the king, pura built by the desa ( village ), and pura built by personal. In the kingdom there are at least 3 temples, one dedicated or located near the sea, one in the city ( near palace ), and the other one on the mountain( or near the mountain). While every Desa has 3 temples associated with Hindu Trinity besides many temples related to natural preservation such as irrigation temple, beginning of a river, and some considered sacred places.

Historical Record
There are many manuscripts mention about establishment, rituals, and the status of Besakih. This type of manuscript is called " Purana " The descriptions mentioned on the Purana mostly could not be understood by human thinking, since many magical aspects were involving in the events. Relating to the establishment of the temple only one Purana giving description that is Markandeya Purana or is also called Raja Purana. Beginning the establishment of the temple is full of magical events. It is said that Besakih temple was built by a Priest from East Java, and he was the first who put the "Panca Datu" base for the establishment of a temple. The Panca Datu is 5 elements to be buried under the basements to protect the construction from evil spirits.

See from archaeological remains which are still preserved in the temple, it must have been a very old site, as old as Shivaitic tradition in Bali, as a crude linggas, the symbol of Shiva is preserved in one of the shrines. As already been known the practice of Shivaitic sect was very wide in Bali, and until now the Hindu in Bali still has strong character in ritual aspect. If we try to see the Shivaitic practice outside Bali, we will have the clear prove that is Prambanan temple which was built in 9th century. At one of the temple complex is preserved a manuscript mentions Sri Wira Kesari, and the area was part of his palace. We do not have prove that relate Sri Wira Kesari with the king mention by stone pillar inscription of Sanur. It is true that the king mentioned by the inscription in Sanur named Sri Kesari Warmadewa, from 9th century.

Careful observation on the linggas has shown a strong megalithic tradition. It was possible the site had already been a sacred place since very much older, but in what form of temple architecture would be difficult to know. Since most of the ancient temple remains in Bali in the form of rock-cut shrines such as Goa Gajah, Yeh Pulu, Goa Garba, and others. One reconstructed ancient shrine is at Pura Pegulingan, Basangambu near Tampaksiring, but the shape is modern Balinese Padma Sana, and it is not possible to put lingga or sculpture in the shrine. It was probable that the shrines were made in perishable materials.

During the kingdom of Middle Bali from 1343 AD to 17th, a kingdom established by Mahapahit, Besakih was mentioned as main temple and it was probably during this period the temple was added and rebuilt with many new shrines. The palace at the beginning was located at Samprangan, now Gianyar city, and later moved to Klungkung. When Bali was broken into many smaller kingdoms, each of their king still considered king of Klungkung as the highest ruler in Bali, and claimed to have their origin from Klungkung. Since Besakih was a state temple of Klungkung, then each of the smaller kingdom felt obliged to worship at the temple. Each smaller kingdoms and the main clans of Bali built their ancestral temple ( Bali : Padharman Temple ) around Besakih area, so the complex has become bigger and bigger. According to the inventory made by Institute Hindu Dharma Denpasar, there are 18 temple complexes with total shrines around 202.

See from the name of gods worshiped in Besakih there is clear mixed concept between Hindu gods, local believe and ancestors' worship. While Pura Penataran Agung complex is considered the center of Besakih temple with 53 shrines. Here are concentrated the shrines of Merus with superimposed roof-tops up to the highest with 11 roof-tops.

This temple complexes is a real valuable heritage for Balinese not just the value of religious activity, but have built up the solidity and close affinity among Balinese Hindu, although in the past was broken into more than 9 small kingdoms. Until now these small kingdoms was maintained by Indonesian government by forming a local government based on the area of kingdom in the past. That is why Bali now is divided into 8 local government in the level of second under provincial administration. Although in fact one aspect has been made so complicated that is rituals aspects. Furthermore the purana associate natural changes with the incompleteness of the rituals aspects, or any shortcoming in elements of offerings, it is actually Besakih is most famous for their ritual compared to their architecture and historical values.

To have the idea some of the temple complex will be described in short below. This is only a short descriptions on name and main feature, while the real fact is very complicated and impossible to described within some pages.

  1. Pura Pesimpangan Group. Located around 1.5 kms from center of Besakih with 4 shrines. This temple is used as temporary stop by devotees and god's symbols during procession to ask holy water, which is performed every year of Caka year
  2. Pura Dalem Puri Group. Located just before the center, with 10 shrines and is dedicated to Goddess Durga. Durga in Hindu Java tradition is considered the power of Shiva
  3. as the god of death or returning living being into its origin.
  4. Pura Manik Mas Group. Located 700 meters before the center and have 6 shrines, and is mentioned to be dedicated to Ida Ratu Mas Melilit. This figure might be ancestor's spirit.
  5. Pura Bangun Sakti Group. Just on the other side of Manik Mas Group have 4 shrines and is the abode of Sanghyang Anantabhoga. Anantabhoga is often related to the rice goddess.
  6. Pura Ulun Kulkul Group. Located around 350- meters before the center have 7 shrines dedicated to Mahadewa who rule the west direction
  7. Pura Merajan Slonding Group have 5 shrines, and according to the manuscript preserved here this was part of the palace.
  8. Pura Gowa Group, have 4 shrines, dedicated to the fairy tale of Naga Basuki serpent who resided the cave
  9. Pura Banuwa Group have 4 shrines dedicated to Goddess Sri who is the goddess of the rice.
  10. Pura Merajan Kanginan Group have 7 shrines, sounds like a family temple. It may be the family temple of the palace, since a shrine is dedicated to a Priest called Empu Bharadah
  11. Pura Hyang Aluh Group have 7 shrines dedicated to Ida Ratu Ayu, sound like an ancestral worship.
  12. Pura Basukihan Group have 10 shrines dedicated to fairy tale Naga Basuki serpent.
  13. Pura Penataran Agung Besakih Group have 53 shrines. This is the center of the temple have Merus and 3 open shrines for Trinity, a real Hindu gods, but some priests still consider it as a Shivaitic character since they think that the open shrines is dedicated to God Shiva's aspects such as Siwa, Sadha Siwa, and Parama Siwa.
  14. Pura Batumadeg Group. have 29 shrines dedicated to god Wishnu
  15. Pura Kdiduling Kreteg Group have 21 shrines dedicated god Brahma
  16. Pura Gelap Group have 6 shrines dedicated to god Iswara as the ruler of East direction
  17. Pura Peninjauan Group have 12 shrines dedicated to Priest Empu Kuturan, an ancestral worship
  18. Pura Pengubengan Group have 6 shrines. This temple is a temporary above or a place to " inform " other temple there will be a ceremony in Besakih.
  19. Pura Tirta Group have 2 shrines, around 300 meters east of the center. Here is a water source. During the ceremonythe priest request the holy water here.
  20. Pura Pasar Agung Group, located on the higher slope of Mt. Agung and is via Selat village, and is considered as part of Besakih.
Temple Maintenance
To maintain the temple in the sense of management a foundation has been established under the Center Hindu Assembly in Jakarta. The decision to manage the temple by Central Assembly was issued by Bali Governor by his memo no. 206/I/C/1968 dated 10 August 1968.
The foundation name is BESAKIH PRAWARTAKA Foundation. While the committee ( Bali " Pengempon " ) of the temple are those villages surrounding the temple, consist of 4 villages. According to the recordin 1976 these 4 villages have 3791 residents. Those villages are:
  1. Banjar Besakih Kanginan ( East Besakih village )Banjar Besakih Kawan ( West Besakih village )Banjar Temukus ( Temukus village )
  2. Banjar Simpar ( Simpar village )
For daily maintenance works these 4 villages are divided into 8 group which are in charge for each complex of the temple. So all 18 complexes of the temple are divided into 8 permanent working groups.

Religious Ceremony
There are various ceremonies which are conducted in Besakih temple. There are 12 ceremonies conducted every 210 days. This is based on Hindu - Java calendar which is consist of 30 months and one month consist of 7 days. Each temple complex has it's own ceremony based on this dates.

Special ceremony based on Çaka year is conducted 6 times a year. This ceremony is called " Ngusaba ", a kind of
blessing ceremony. At the other village temples in Bali this type of ceremony is also conducted in relation with rice harvesting, especially in the regency of Gianyar. During the Ngusaba ceremony in Gianyar there is a very long procession of girls dressed in Balinese traditional costumes, and women with offering on their head, followed with deafening sound of Balinese traditional musics.

A ceremony called " Betara Turun Kabeh " is conducted every year. " Betara Turun Kabeh " means all gods are presence. This is the biggest yearly ceremony. While a ceremony every 10 years called " Paca Wali Krama", and a ceremony every 100 years called " Eka Dasa Rudra". All dates for above ceremony can be known in December for the following year, when Bali calendar has been issued. Normally Bali calendar already at the shop latest by December every year.

Selected Readings
  • Bernet Kempers, Dr. A.J. Monumental Bali Introduction to Balinese Archaeology, Guide to the monument Periplus Edition, 1989
  • I.H.D. Kumpulan Hasil Penelitian Pura, Diterbitkan untuk Kepentingan Intern, Institute Hindu Dharma Denpasar, Bali
  • Goris, Dr. R Sekte-Sekte di Bali, Bhrattara, Jakarta, translated by Soejono S.
  • Goris, Dr. R Bali Atlas Kebudayaan, Pemerintah Republik Indonesia, No date
  • Goris Dr. R Arti Pura Besakih Menurut Sejarah dan Ibadat. Majalah Bhakti Th. II No. 17
  • Linus, Drs. Ketut Sedikit Tentang Hubungan Konsepsional Antara Candi di Jawa dengan Pura di Bali, Fakultas Sastra, Universitas Udayana, Denpasar, 1974
  • Mantra, Prof. Dr. I.B Pengertian Candi dalam Majalah Ilmiah Universitas Udayana, Th.I, No.1, 1970
  • Rata, Drs. I.B Konsepsi Dasar dan Perkembangan Fungsi Pura di Bali, Fakultas Sastra, Universitas Udayana, Denpasar, Bali, 1974
  • Soebandi, Ktut Pura Kawitan/Padharman dan Penyungsungan Jagat, Guna Agung, 1981
  • Soekmono, Dr. R Candi Fungsi dan Pengertiannya,Direktorat Pembinaan dan Pengabdian Masyarakat, Dirjen Pendidikan Tinggi, Departement P & K, 1977
  • Stutterheim, Prof. Dr Willem Frederik Oudheden van Bali, translated by I.G. Tjakera, Hortel Dirga Yusa Denpasar, Bali, No date.
  • Toko Buku Ria Riwayat Rsi Markandeya, 1981
I Made Terima
25 April 2003

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Balinese Kinship
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Balinese Naming Tradition
Banjar, the smallest Settlement Unit of Bali
Banten, the offering of Bali
Batukaru Temple
Beaches of Bali
Besakih Temple
Bureucracy of Traditional Bali
Castes, the Social Layer of Bali
Dialect of Bali Language
Erau Festival Kalimantan
Chinese Early Trace
Gua Gajah Temple
Gua Lawah Temple
Healing, the traditional medicament of Bali
History of Bali island
Java Traditional Events
Kamasan Painting Style
Keris a long dagger of magic weapon
Kulkul Bali traditional bell
Leak witch craft known in Bali
Mariage of Bali a long process of ritual
Myth or Fact Rajapurana
Ngaben and Cremation ceremony of Bali
Pasola and Reba Feasts
Ponjok Batu Temple
Sacred dance of Bali
Subak the organization of rice irrigation
Tajen Balinese Tranditional Gambling
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