Temples in Bali, the basics

In every Balinese village, are at least three local temples, with smaller auxiliary ones scattered around. In addition, significant temples are spread across the island and dedicated to a major god in the Hindu pantheon. Finally, in the centre lies the mother temple of Besakih, the largest Hindu temple on the island. Though the temples are many, they all share similar properties and are all based on a single philosophy.

In this post, we’ll talk about the basics of temples in Bali. Of course, we won’t discuss the numerous family and clan temples; there’s too much to cover!

Generally, temples are categorized based on their functions. In any Balinese village, three temples must be present called the Khayangan Tiga. First is the Pura Puseh, or the temple where the god Brahma resides. This temple holds rituals related to creation and the god Brahma. Second is the Pura Desa, where the god Vishnu resides. This temple is related to prosperity and preservation. Last is the Pura Dalem, where the god Shiva resides. This temple is almost always located near cemeteries, making them an important place for conducting cremations.

These temples are known as “local temples”. Apart from religious purposes, the temples can also serve as community centres. Some banjars have their main halls situated within or near temple grounds. Of course, smaller family temples exist in villages and across Bali, but those temples are primarily for private use. Also, there are smaller auxiliary temples in the villages. Some include water temples near farms or rivers, temples for the goddess of fortune near markets, and others.

Across Bali, there are six major temples known as Sad Khayangan. These major temples are considered to be the important temples in Bali that protect the island. They include:

  1. Besakih temple in Karangasem
  2. Lempuyang temple in Karangasem
  3. Goa Lawah temple in Klungkung
  4. Uluwatu temple in Badung
  5. Batukaru temple in Tabanan
  6. Pusering Jagat temple in Gianyar

Large religious ceremonies are often held in these temples. As these temples are “universal” in nature, anyone can visit them, but they are usually closed off when not in use to preserve their history and sacredness. These are not the only major temples; there are many more.

These temples are only a part of the many temples that make up the entire island of Bali. There are many more to visit when in Bali. When visiting temples, always observe the local customs, especially the dress code. At major temples, the rules can be strict as the temples are, first and foremost, holy places.