In the far eastern reaches of the great Indonesian archipelago lie the island of Bali; a well known tourist haven and the last outpost of Hinduism in the world’s largest Islamic nation. Being a province with a large number of Hindus, Bali is dotted with ancient and ornate shrines dedicated to various Hindu deities. The largest and most beloved among these shrines is the Pura Besakih; also known as the Mother Temple of Besakih, sitting grandly upon the volcanic slopes of Mount Augung.
It is assumed that the temple was first constructed in the 14th century, even thought there were numerous additions and alterations that took place later. The Pura Besakih temple is actually a complex of buildings of various sizes, arranged along parallel ridges of the mountain slope. There are twenty-two different shrines in the Pura Besakih complex, the pilgrims pathway up the mountain slope penetrate into each layer of the complex until it reaches the great ‘Meru’ structure sitting at the ultimate end of the avenue. This marvellous piece of south-east Asian Hindu architecture was miraculously saved in the 1963 eruption of Mount Augung, where the rapid lava flows of the volcano missed the temple by mere meters. The devotees hailed this as a sign from the gods showing their power, and it did well to increase the popularity of the temple.
Pura Besakih is not a place you would like to miss out while exploring the wonders of Bali; especially if you are a culture and history buff who is intrigued by the ways and sights of this land out of time. Walking among its dusky edifices carven out of volcanic stone, one cannot help but wonder about the glory of all those Hindu kingdoms which dominated the archipelago of old, and the artistic taste with which they strived to honour their divine lords in the form of monuments in stone. But if you check the local calendars, make sure you pinpoint the festival day at Pura Besakih for an amazing experience at the Mother Temple; for the annual festival is an explosion of life in all its colour and taste at Pura Besakih, a festival like no other where the devout Hindus celebrate the glory of their gods.
You can check in early to a Bali hotel during festival times. If you expect to get a good Bali luxury resort like the popular Anantara Seminyak, Bali, better make the reservation early before the crowds come in. Visit Pura Besakih once, and you will find yourself wanting to come again to bask in the historic glory and the life of the festival, while hoping the volcano will keep quiet.