East Bali – Besakih, Holiest of The Holy

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The first record of Besakih’s existence in Balinese Temple

The montain road north from Klungkung climbs up for about an hour through some of Bali’s most spectacular rice terraces, passing through many villages on the way to the siland’s holiest spot, Pura Besakih temple. With the massive peak of Mt. Agung, the Balinese Olympus, as a backdrop, the broad, stteped granite terrecas and slender, pointed black pagodas of this 60 temple complex are a fitting residence for the gods.

Regarded as a holy place since prehistoric times, the first record of Besakih’s exixtence is an inscription dating from 1007 Ad. From at least the 15th century, when Besakih was designated as the sanctuary of the deified ancestors of the Gelgel god-kings and their very extended family the temple has been the central, “mother” temple for the entire island. All the allegiances of the extensive Balinese pantheon are represented, gathered here in one vast meeting palce in the clouds, and all Balinese make periodic pilgrimages to worship them.

All of Bali’s many caste groups even the non-Hindu Bali Aga tribes, have their own pedarmaan shrine off to the side off the main coutyard. Each shrine is afforded individual odalan anniversary rites, and everyone joins in the general turun kabeh (they all descend) ceremony held on the day of the full oon, which marks the anniversary of besakih’s consecration.

Once a century, the Balinese hold the Eka Dasa Rudra rite at Besakijh – a ceremony of truly cosmic proportions aimedat purifying and stablizing the antrie univerde. The ceremony involves millions of man-hours of labour in the preparation of offerings, thousands of animal sacrifices and the participation of every high priestand indeed every Balinese on the island in a 3-month sequnce of rituals.

An attempt was made to hold the ceremony in 1963, but was aborted when Mt. Agung erupted violently after lying dormant for server centuries. Two thousand people were killed, thousands more were left homeless and the temple was enclosed in clouds of black volcanic ash for several months. The Eka Dasa Rudra was finally held again over six months in 1979, this time without incident.

–> Read Also : East Bali – The East Coast

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