After two weeks in Indonesia, primarily on the island of Bali, I learned a ton about temples. However, that is not really boasting as if you have ever been you they are nearly inescapable even if you do spend most of your time drinking Bintangs (the local beer) on the beach. I visited more than a dozen temples of various sizes, the most notable being Tirta Empul Bali Temple, Goa Gajah, or Pura Dalem Agung and I wanted to share four key things I learned about Bali temples.
(1) They are Hindu Temples – While multiple religions are practiced in Bali more than 90% of the island practices Balinese Hinduism, formally called Agama Hindu Dharma. And to practice their religion, this is is often done at a temple. Each temple has it’s own architecture an they are built according to traditional and religious rules. For instance, they must be built facing one of three directions; towards to mountains, towards the sea, or towards the sunrise.
(2) They are ALL shapes and sizes – After growing up Catholic I had thought there was set format or layout for all religious structures but I saw more a dozen different layouts. Not only were the big ones a variety of sizes, layouts, and materials but there are thousands across Bali in people’s home, many of which are not bigger than a closet. One driver told me there are more Bali temples than there are homes on the island and I would believe it.
(3) Offerings are Important – You can find small offerings made of palm leaves with small flowers, wrapped candies, and candles all along the roadsides for roughly 10 cents each in USD. The offerings representation the Balinese people’s devotion to their (Hindu) gods and while the contents of the offering change based on the god it is being offered to and on the occasion – a random Tuesday is very different than a wedding – the general theme of a spirit of thankfulness is present throughout and all of the ones I saw showed a great attention to detail.
(4) Dress Appropriately – The Balinese people are very warm and welcoming and they know the climate of their island is very warmer so while one must cover up to visit a temple most of the large ones, along with a suggested donation, will lend you a sarong and expertly wrap you in it before letting you into the temple grounds. There were also massive sings at nearly every temple saying women can not go in the temples if they are menstruating but I didn’t see anyone checking but just so you know, that’s what it says.
One of the reasons this post is a long time coming is because I am still a bit sad that I missed some of the key temples in Bali – I would have loved to visit Pura Taman Saraswati Temple, Ulun Danu Beratan (Bali Water Goddess Temple), Pura Luhur Uluwatu, and Tanah Lot Temple however, I wanted to amke sure my vacation did have some elements of relaxing and I also chose to go scubadiving a number of days. But heck, that just means that I will have to make a trip back!
Would you like to visit any of these Bali temples?