Before we dive into exact explanations about the Uluwatu Temple and Balinese temples in general, we would like to explain and introduce Balinese beliefs.
First, Hinduism is the base of Balinese religion and faith. Second, Animism is the common belief among the people of Bali. Third, there are numerous gods of Bali.
To begin with, traders from India brought their Hindu faith to Bali. Over time the Balinese began mixing Hindu beliefs with Buddism and Animism resulting in the practices Bali uses today.
You see, Hindu religion is positioned around the idea of balance in the cosmos. There is order, referred to as dharma and disorder referred to as adharma. The Balinese practice rituals and offerings to each side in order to achieve balance and harmony between the two. There is an understanding that an imbalance of the two forces in the universe causes human birth.
As a result of the birth caused by the struggle between forces. There is a belief that humans are godlike for the first forty-two days of life. This is due to the fact that they are a product of an imperfection in the universe during a struggle between forces.
An Eternal Soul Is Born
Being godlike would mean eternal life, humans, on the other hand, experience death. This is where the belief of an eternal soul comes in. The eternal soul simply passes between family members from one body to the next as they are born and parish.
Additionally, it is said that accomplishing a balance between dharma and adharma will free souls from the never-ending cycle of reincarnation. Traditionally, in the Hindu faith, people believe that human souls are reincarnated in families throughout eternity. The purpose of following religious practices is to obtain a soul release from the higher gods. When released by a higher god a soul had the opportunity to become a god.
In order for a human soul to be released by a higher god, the human must do one of three things throughout their life. One of those things is to live strictly by the ancient religious books. This requires an amount of study and self-discipline that many do not capable of. “To err is human”. The next option is through meditation and concentration. The time and clarity required to accomplish this is nearly impossible to dedicate and achieve. Therefore, the majority of Balinese practice the third option. This involves routinely holding rituals and bringing offerings to the gods of Bali.
What Is Animism?
In short, Animism is the belief that all things living or non-living possess a soul. This means all things must be ruled by a specific god. Correspondingly, if all things have a god, all things must be offered to and prayed to.
Furthermore, there is a common understanding that the cosmos consists of not just heaven and hell, but of three planes. There is heaven, human, and hell. Of course, heaven is the highest level and home to the gods. Then, there is the human plane, home to man. And, down below all of this there is hell, home to all demons and lower spirits which need to be punished for bad deeds.
To go deeper, the three layers of cosmos mirror the human form, head, body, and feet. This means, your feet are closest to hell or the demon world. Due to this fact, Balinese infants are not to touch the ground for the first year of their life. Similarly, it is also inappropriate to touch a child’s head because that is the part of the body closest to heaven and the gods.
(The Balinese pawukon calendar runs on a ten week, two hundred and ten-day cycle considered as one year. So translated to a twelve-month calendar the infant would be around six months old before able to touch the ground.)
Appeasing The Ancestors And Lower Spirits
For the purpose of keeping balance, not only are the gods of Bali offered to and worshipped, the ancestors and lower spirits are as well. To elaborate, everything in Animism is believed to have a soul, therefore, the objects and forces of nature need to be pleased to remain balanced. The idea of mankind having no control over Mother Nature drives the Balinese to look to their ancestors for help with weather-related troubles.
In the same fashion, it is thought that lower spirits are troublemakers and need to be kept happy in order to remain idle and not mischievous. These spirits are said to live in the seas as well as underground, therefore, the Balinese do not build their homes on or near beaches. Balinese Temples, however, are found literally everywhere on the island.
Balinese Temples, The Island Of A Thousand Temples
Though Bali is nicknamed the island of a thousand temples, there are close to twenty thousand Balinese Temples in total. This may seem like a huge number for such a small island, but, that breaks down to one temple for every two hundred and eleven people.
Much like the different types of gods of Bali, there are also different types of temples. The Balinese word for temple is Pura. Let’s explore the various temples and gods.
- Pura Kahyangan Jagad
- Located in mountainous regions. Mountains are believed to be sacred, magical places and home to gods. The Mother Temple Of Besakih is an excellent example.
- Pura Tirta
- Located near rice terraces or in lakes, “water temples”. These temples are associated with religion as well as water management for rice paddies. Priests of Tirta temples have authority over the water management. Such temples can also contain sacred water used for cleansing rituals and bathing. The Pura Tirta Empul is a grand example.
- Pura Desa
- Located in cities and villages. These temples are dedicated to Brahma, gods, and deities. Used as the center for all religious activities.
- Pura Puseh
- Dedicated to Vishnu, a supreme being and known as the preserver in the Hindu triad
- Pura Dalem
- Located near cemeteries and used for rituals directed towards death. Shiva, Durga, Mother nature and other deities are worshiped in these temples.
- Pura Mrajapati
- Used to worship the lord of the people.
- Supreme god-“he who cannot be imagined”. All-in-one-god.
- Creator god with four faces, self-born, the god of speech, and god of knowledge.
- Batara Kala
- God of the underworld, creator of light and the earth. God of time and destruction devouring evil souls.
- Dewi Danu
- Water goddess one of two supreme deities.
- Dewi Ratih
- Lunar goddess and goddess of grace and beauty celebrated at each full moon.
- Dewi Sri
- An immensely celebrated and worshiped deity. Goddess of rice, prosperity, wealth, fertility, and life.
- God of the sun
These are only basic lists of the temples and gods of Bali. You must remember, there are gods for everything with a soul and the Balinese believe all things have souls.
Finding Your Way Through The Temples
The temples of Bali have a specific design detailing their beliefs. For instance, each temple consists of three main sections representing the different segments of the universe or cosmos. All temples are adorned with intricate patterns and designs on their gates connecting each section. Additionally, all sections house towers and pavilions.
To illustrate, the outer section of the temples resembles a field or garden to accommodate performances or festivals. This leads to the temple entrance and the entire section is called the Nista Mandala. Inside, you will find the Madya Mandala.
This consists of the space where activities and rituals are performed. Then, going deeper inside, there is the holiest section, the Utama Mandala. This space is reserved for the throne for the supreme gods such as Brahma or Acintya.
As for the gates separating and connecting each section, there are two main types. Each type of gate holds a specific role in Balinese architecture. The split gate is designed for use in the Nista Mandala.
Then, the roofed tower gate is put in place between the Madya and Utama Mandalas. Now that you have opened the gates and had a look around, it is time for you to discover the Uluwatu Temple. This is of one of the most popular temples in Bali for several reasons.
The Uluwatu Temple And Why You Must Visit It
Let’s begin by explaining the Uluwatu Temples exclusive location. Being a water temple, it is justly located seventy meters above the ocean on top of a rock cliff. Likewise, the word Uluwatu translates into “top-rock”.
Aside from warding off evil sea spirits, the Balinese believe Uluwatu is the rendezvous point for the powers of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. This makes Uluwatu temple the ideal location for worshiping Siva Rudra. Ultimately, praying to all manners of life in the cosmos.
As far as Balinese temples go, Uluwatu is one of six religious pillars of the island. The temple dates back around a thousand years to Megolithic times. Actually, there is a Megolithic coffin inside separated into two stone troughs.
Another key feature of visiting Uluwatu temple is the population of monkeys that inhabit it. Not to worry, the furry creatures are as friendly as can be. However, they tend to have sticky fingers. Not literally, but metaphorically speaking. In other words, monkeys like to steal from visitors and hold their possessions ransom for fruits and other treats. Aside from the monkeys, the Balinese also put on daily sunset performances for visitors to enjoy.
The supreme gods of Bali feel the Uluwatu Temple is an adequate place to rendezvous, how about you? Luxury Bali Tours can arrange an outing for you to visit this temple along with many others.
Luxury Bali Tours is the only company who offers real authentic experiences for their clients, which are not set up for the entertainment for the tourist only, but because our Balinese friends & staff are genuine people who would love to introduce foreigners to their culture.
If you are interested in taking part in a local ceremony, and your travel time permits, Luxury Bali Tours will make it happen, on a genuine, real and authentic experience.
Contact us today, the gods of Bali are waiting to meet you.