Temples and odds and ends


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Asia » Indonesia » Bali
May 21st 2018
Published: May 21st 2018
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Floating TempleFloating TempleFloating Temple

Split gates to enter temple
As you may have picked up from previous posts, it is impossible to go anywhere in Bali without encountering temples. It’s said that in Bali, there are more temples than there are houses. Some estimates are even as high as 50,000, in fact. While this may be hard to believe at first, it doesn’t take much time on the island to notice that temples are literally everywhere. Balinese temples, or pura, have strong associations with the number three. Temples are divided into three spaces: an outer courtyard in addition to two holier inner yards. Each temple also has spaces of worship for Hinduism’s three prominent deities: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. And within the context of a Balinese village, there is also something called the ‘three temple system.’ Each Balinese village contains its own Pura Puseh, Pura Desa and Pura Dalem temples. The Pura Puseh is dedicated to both the god Vishnu and the human founders of the village. These are usually situated facing Bali’s most sacred and largest mountain, Mt. Agung.

The Pura Desa is the temple of the local spirits as well as the god Brahma. These are usually located somewhere in the middle of the village.

Finally,
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Alongside tranquil lake
the Pura Dalem is dubbed “the temple of the dead” and it typically faces the sea. Pura Dalem temples tend to be dedicated to Shiva or related deities like Kali, Durga, or even Rangda. The whole death theme is not all somber, though, as these destructive forces are considered necessary for dissolving impurities, evil entities, and earthly illusions.

The Pura Puseh, Pura Desa and Pura Dalem temples are the bare minimum that any village in Bali must have, but it’s likely for there to be many more. Many temples, it should be noted, fall outside these three categories, such as state temples or those belonging to the local village association. And of course, each family compound in Bali has its own temple as well.

The number three also plays an important role in the overall layout of each individual temple in Bali. Upon entering a temple you’ll first find yourself in the jaba pisan, the intermediate space which acts as a bridge between the sacred space and the outside world. The next section is the jaba tengah, or middle section, where things like gamelan performances or food stalls might be situated during a festival. Finally, the most sacred
Floating TempleFloating TempleFloating Temple

Closer look
and innermost area, the jero (or jeroan), is where things like the main tower and whatever important relics the temple may possess are located.

Individual shrines or towers within a temple might also be divided into three parts to represent the ‘three worlds’: the underworld, the human realm and the heavens. One thing all Balinese temples have in common, though, is that they’re all open to the sky. The reasoning is so that the gods being summoned during special ceremonies can descend from the heavens into the temple before eventually returning home.

As you approach a temple, the first thing you’ll notice is the candi bentar, or split gateway. These gates resemble a mountain that was split into two exactly even parts. Aside from the temple gates, the most distinguishing characteristic of Balinese temples are their multitiered pagodas of varying numbers of thatched roofs. These are situated in the holiest and innermost jero section of a temple. These towers also symbolize Mt. Meru and are even simply referred to as meru. Different towers may be dedicated to different gods, or sometimes even individuals or local mountains. Meru towers have either 3, 5, 7, 9 or 11 tiers –
The inner templeThe inner templeThe inner temple

Prayer area
a sequence of numbers considered sacred not just in Bali but in cultures throughout the world. It’s said that a Balinese temple’s importance can more or less be determined by the height of its highest meru.

Many of the island’s major tourist attractions are elaborate temples like Taman Ayun or Uluwatu, But a countless number of smaller ones exist in sleepy rural villages and even in each family compound.

We visited the famous “Floating Temple” on our last full day tour outing and it was the most beautiful. There are at least 70 ceremonies or religious celebrations held each year here, as each shrine has its own anniversary, plus the big holidays based on the 210-day Balinese HIndu calendar. The temple was located on a lake in the northern part of the island. All parts of the temple are colourfully decorated and just a beautiful site to witness.

After leaving the temple, our guide (who asked us to call him “ the happy man”) chatted away on his microphone, telling us all sorts of information that came to him in no apparent order. He shared:

1. They are having an election coming soon. He said they
on grounds at Floating Templeon grounds at Floating Templeon grounds at Floating Temple

Just reflecting on the day
had 48 political parties running in this election. Try keeping all that straight in the voting booth!

2. The morning food markets open at 4 o’clock in the morning so the women can get fresh food for breakfast. We actually stopped and visited one of these today and the scene was quite remarkable,both in seeing the colourful fruits and vegetables as well as experiencing some disgusting odours emanating from the market. Our waiter at the hotel asked us if we had seen any rats in the market. We said no. He told us they are as big as cats and in fact most of the cats stay away from them as they are too huge. We asked how they are controlled and he said the snakes look after the problem!

3. Our guide said to get to the island of Lombok you could take a boat for 2 1/2 hours or by foot in 5 days- ha ha ha.

4. In the villages we passed through he told us families will own more than one store. One they use for selling their own goods and one to rent for extra money.

5. There were the ever
Floating TempleFloating TempleFloating Temple

One of many Tiered structures in the temple
huge number of scooters even in the countryside. Our guide said families will have more than one scooter. He has 4, one for himself, one for his wife and each child has one to go to school. (His kids are 10 and 14).

6. We drove through 5 villages in the course of an hour. In last village there was a small clinic- 1 doctor worked there for all 5 villages - maybe that is why average life span here is 60 years of age. At 67 I likely would have been ashes by now floating in a yellow coconut somewhere in the Indian Ocean!

7. We saw a man with a scooter loaded with a variety of items. Our guide told us he would be a peddler from Java (a one hour ferry ride)coming to pedal his wears in the villages.


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