Besakih Temple (Pura Besakih) The Biggest Temple Of Bali

Besakih Temple is often referred to as Bali’s ‘mother temple’ – a grand complex of at least 86 clan temples and shrines on the south-western slopes of Mount Agung. At least 70 celebrations take place at Besakih every year, as each shrine has its own anniversary. Besakih is considered to be the biggest and holiest of Bali’s temples. Its high location offers spectacular countryside views with rice paddies, hills, mountains, and streams. Exploring the whole site can take a day. Pura Besakih is the only temple open to every devotee from any caste group.

For the Balinese, visiting the temple sanctuaries of Besakih is a special pilgrimage. Mount Agung’s position gives it an almost mystical quality. Several stairs lead up to the sacred mountainside, leading to temples that vary by type, status, and function.

Pura Besakih has 3 main temples dedicated to the Hindu trinity. Pura Penataran Agung (in the centre) has white banners for Shiva, the destroyer; Pura Kiduling Kreteg (to the right) features red banners for Brahma, the creator; and Pura Batu Madeg represents Vishnu, the preserver, with its black banners. You can visit many other smaller temples in Pura Besakih, though many of their inner courtyards are only reserved for pilgrims.

History of Besakih Temple Bali

Pura Batu Madeg contains a central stone indicating that the area of Pura Besakih was already regarded as a holy place since ancient times. In the 8th century, a Hindustani monk had revelations to build homes for people during his isolation. Throughout the process, many of his followers died due to illness and accidents. Upon completion, it was called ‘Basuki’, referring to the dragon deity ‘Naga Besukian’, believed to inhabit Mount Agung. The name eventually evolved into ‘Besakih’.

Other shrines were gradually built and Pura Besakih was made the main temple during the conquering of Bali by the Majapahit Empire in 1343. Since then, Pura Besakih has had several restorations as earthquakes in 1917 and Mount Agung’s series of eruptions in 1963 damaged the complex. The lava flow evaded Pura Besaki – locals believe that he deities wanted to demonstrate their power without completely destroying the holy complex.