Indonesia is an archipelago of 13,466 islands (excluding “tidal islands”). Of those, the government of Indonesia estimates that 8,844 islands have been named and 922 of those are permanently inhabited. Bali is a well known island located at the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, between Java to the west and Lombok to the east. Its capital, Denpasar, is located in the south as is Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport, also known as Denpasar International Airport.
We’ll be touring the central region around three lakes on this map….
With a population of 4,225,000, the island is home to most of Indonesia’s Hindu minority. 83.5% of Bali’s population are devotees of Balinese Hinduism, followed by 13.4% Muslim, Christianity at 2.5%, and Buddhism 0.5%.
World’s Top Tourist Destination
Bali is a popular tourist destination with continual growth since the 1980s. Tourism-related business makes up 80% of its economy. The climate is equatorial, the beaches are hot, the surfing is good and the people are friendly. Average temperature is around 30 °C with a humidity level of about 85%. The mountain resorts are cooler.
The west monsoon is in place from approximately October to April. Unless you are a surfer, avoid the monsoon periods and everything will be tickety-boo. The high season in Bali is during the “dry season” in July and August, as well as during the Easter and Christmas holidays, when the weather is very unpredictable. The rain is lovely and warm…..
In March 2017, TripAdvisor named the island the world’s top destination in its Traveler’s Choice Award.
Paradise on Earth
The sensuous image of Bali was perpetuated in the west by a 1932 documentary ‘Virgins of Bali’ about a day in the lives of two teenage Balinese girls whom the film’s narrator Deane Dickason notes in the first scene “bathe their shamelessly nude bronze bodies”. Under the looser version of the Haynes censorship code until 1934, nudity involving “civilized” (i.e. white) women was banned, but permitted for “uncivilized” (i.e. non-white women), a loophole that was exploited by the producers of Virgins of Bali. The film, which mostly consisted of scenes of topless Balinese women was a great success and reputedly made Bali into a popular spot for tourists.
VIDEO – Virgins of Bali (13min 49sec)
VIDEO – Virgins of Bali (part 2 continuation 14min 21sec)
Duality in Bali
Balinese are a devoted people when it comes to religion. Most are devotees of a form of Hinduism which is spiritual, communal and tolerant. Every day in Bali is a religious day as there are myriads of gods and goddesses and hundreds of festivals throughout the year. Devotions include daily temple offerings (rice cakes, fruit and flowers) and monthly pilgrimages as the new moon and full moon phases are expressly holy days.
Although a few of the temple music and dances may be staged for tourists, the vast majority are personal devotions. Even when staged, they still have religious meaning for the devotees and the tourists are incidental visitors to the ceremony.
As part of the acceptance of Light and Darkness in Hinduism, the acceptance of the duality of decadent tourist resorts and unspoiled Nature is part of the rich tapestry and cycle of Life.
All over Bali, you can see people purifying themselves with water in temples.
There is certainly no shortage of water in Bali so much purification goes on….
Sacred Water and Mountains
Mountains occupy an important place in Hindu mythology being symbols of strength when gods grow to resemble mountains, and of oppressive weight when they are broken and hurled as missiles by gods or demons. The peaks occupy the heavens. The volcanoes in Bali fulfil this symbology being both lofty heavens and the source of hurling rocks. Come with us on a tour of the mountain lakes and temples.
Lake Buyan and Lake Tamblingan used to be one body of water, until a landslide separated them at the turn of the 19th century. Standing on one spot, I could see Lake Tamblingan to the west and Lake Buyan to the east with the lush jungle growing on top of the mega-landslide between them; in fact, I was standing on that landslide!
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan (or Beratan)
Ulun Danu Bratan Temple is at Candikuning (pronounced chan-dee-koo-ning) Village, Baturiti sub-district of Bali. The letter ‘C’ is pronounced ‘Ch’ in the Malay language. It is approximately 50 km north of Denpasar, on the main road between Denpasar and Singaraja. Lake Bratan is located next to Mount Bratan and Mount Catur. It is the second largest lake in Bali. The resort area of Bedugul offers excellent views of the lake, as well as a number of water activities such as parasailing, swimming, etc. Lake Bratan is known as the Lake of Holy Mountain due to the fertility of this area. Located 1200 metres above sea level, it has a cool tropical climate.
The Balinese Malay word for temple is ‘Pura’ and the temple complex of Pura Ulun Danu Bratan on AND in Lake Bratan is one of the most beautiful. Ulun Danu Bratan Temple is one of nine “Kahyangan Jagat” temples, which encircle Bali. It consists of five compounds of Hindu temples and one Buddhist Stupa:
- Penataran Agung Temple
- Dalem Purwa Temple
- Taman Beiji Temple
- Lingga Petak Temple (in the middle of Lake Bratan)
- Prajapati Temple
- Buddhist Stupa
Temple complex construction was started by I. Gusti Agung Putu in the year 1556 Saka (1634 A.D.) and is maintained now by four groups or ‘Satakan’ from the hereditary villages around the temple. The temple complex is used for ceremonies of offerings to the Balinese water, lake and river goddess Dewi Danu because of the importance of Lake Bratan as a main source of irrigation in central Bali.
Dalem Purwa Temple
The entry from the car park is via the gates of Dalem Purwa temple. As it was a lunar holy day, there were crowds of devotees including young Balinese.
Penataran Agung Temple
Lingga Petak Temple
The 11-storey pelinggih meru (pagoda) is dedicated to supreme deity Shiva and his consort Parvathi.
Two Shrines called Tengahing Segara Temple with 11 roofs are devoted to worship of Vishnu and the Lake Goddess Dewi Danu. On the east side is the Lingga Petak Temple with 3 roofs and the sacred well that contains holy water “Tirta” of Ulun Danu and believed to be the main source of Lake Beratan water and fertility.
Pura Taman Ayun
Driving back from Lake Bratan, we found Pura Taman Ayun. It is a compound of royal temples and garden with water features located in Mengwi, about 18 km north of Denpasar. Mengwi used to be the capital of the Mengwi kingdom with an august dynasty. The royal palace can be seen nearby.
There are strict rules against entry into the temple complex by women at certain phases.
Renovated into a beautiful garden (taman = garden and ayun = beautiful) in 1750, the temple complex appears as an island in the middle of a pool of water and is approached by a bridge.
After the bridge, you pass through ‘Candi Bentar’, which is the huge carved entrance to the temple.
On the right side of the path is the Cockfighting Pavilion.
It may seem odd to build a cockfighting venue on the grounds of a temple, but it is the No.1 Balinese sport. Life and Death are a cycle. It is located near the entrance in the ‘kelod’ direction, which is the least pure part of the temple.
The first two courtyards were used for gatherings and dance performances. In the corner, on the left hand side is a tower in which you can climb to admire the view of the whole complex. The tower was where they placed the drums to call the people to the temple.
Next, we approach the gates to the Inner Sanctum surrounded by walls.
In the heart of the most sacred part of the complex are the royal shrines. Together with the high priests, the kings (raja) of the Mengwi empire conducted offering ceremonies to maintain the balance between the ‘creator’ and the ‘destroyer’.
The inner courtyard, “jeroan” is the most sacred area of the temple. From over the wall you can clearly see several pavilions and a stone lotus shrine which is dedicated to the gods Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the protector) and Shiva (the destroyer).
On the east side there are a number of temples with various numbers of meru (temple roofs).
The three highest temples are dedicated to the mountain gods: 9 meru are for the God of the Bratan Lake, 11 for the God of Mount Agung and the temple with 9 meru is dedicated to the God of Mount Batur. The other temples that have 11 merus are dedicated to the rice goddess Dewi Sri and the God of Mount Batu Karu.
I hope you enjoyed the tour of a quieter side of Bali and away from the bright lights and fleshpots of Denpasar or Seminyak. A more contemplative and devotional Bali with stories of rich culture and innocence.
However, there is nothing wrong with a bit of civilisation as we headed here just before boarding our flight home…
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).