Besakih is known as the Mother Temple of Bali and is simply the most important temple for the whole of the island. It’s actually more like a complex of temples in one very large compound and its known and loved for is its dramatic location on the southern slopes of Sacred Mount Agung. It is known as and accepted as Bali’s Mother Temple for more than a thousand years. Besakih is quite unique as it basically consists of more than 80 individual temples. The main one is Pura Penataran Agung (the Great Temple of State).
Besakih Temple is located in the North West of Bali, near Bali’s highest and most important and most spectacular Volcano, Mount Agung. The area is on an altitude of about 1,000 metres and is located on the southwestern slopes of Mount Agung. It is surrounded by scenic rice paddies, lush forests and vegetation. The compound is really big so you can easily spend 3 hours here. You will need to walk quite a bit and climb stairs. And if you have a good guide who is capable of explaining to you the different symbols, the meaning of the separate temples, their shrines etc time will fly.
A stone within Pura Batu Madeg suggests that the area around Pura Besakih was already regarded a sacred and holy since very ancient times. In Bali, many temples and their meaning cannot be separated from the land they are built on, the nature and the spirits and gods they believe do actually live there.
The priests let us know that during the 8th century, a Hindu monk had revelations to build homes on this holy ground. They say during the process, apparently many of his followers died due to illness and even accidents. Stories like this are the brickstones of legends so it is difficult to get the historic truth. The people called the area “Basuki”. A name referring to “Naga Besukian”, a dragon deity inhabiting Mount Agung.
Additional temple shrines were constructed and Besakih was established as the main temple complex around 1340.
Besakih was hit a few times by earthquakes (e.g. 1917) and also several volcanic eruptions of Mount Agung took their toll, particularly a major one in 1963. The complex did get damaged here and there but in 1963 the the lava flow did pass sparing the temple from complete destruction. This event is now of course part of the overall legend of Pura Besakih. The people believe that the deities showed their true power but without destroying the holy temple completely.
Besakih being the biggest and holiest of the island’s temples plays a significant role not only for the villages and families nearby but for entire Bali. Many important festivals are celebrated here. It is a temple open to every devotee – from any caste groups. It is simply the prime spiritual centre for all Balinese.