Religion and ceremonies play an important role in daily Balinese life. Balinese people are predominantly of Hindu belief. There are a lot of Gods and Goddesses; and they build and decorate beautifully the temples dedicated to such deities. Most of these temples are devoted to local Gods or Goddess and/or to ancestors. There are too many of them on the island that it is impossible to visit all of them in your visit. You have to choose and visit only a few of them, like how we did.
The entrance of the temples basically contains split gates which are guarded by the statues of the temple guards.
As opposed to mosques and churches, Hindu temples have open air places to worship, which are surrounded by the walls. They generally have beautiful gardens, facing the pagoda like multiple roofed towers. There are also beautiful terraces and ponds. All of them are picturesque. Therefore, I recommend you to visit the temples before noon or afternoon around 4-6 pm.
As far as I learned from our guide, June, there are 5 types of temples in Bali. These are mountain, water, sea, village temples and small shrines at each house. The mountain temples are built in the mountains and slope of the volcanos, as the mounts are sacred in Hinduism. The most important of the mountain temples is the mother temple “Besakih” in Mount Agung. I do not know why, but we have not had a chance to visit this one.
Second type is the water temples. They are built next to the rivers and lakes. They are not only used for religious purposes but also for managing the waters. There might be some ponds for the fishes and sacred pools for cleansing. We visited Ulun Danu temple which is by the Bretan Lake and Taman Ayun Temple. Taman Ayun is in Badung region which is very close to Seminyak. Therefore, our first stop was Taman Ayun.
Taman Ayun was built in 15th century, surrounded by rivers and fish ponds. It was quiet and beautiful. It was very relaxing to walk around the beautiful gardens and terraces.
Ulun Danu temple is also an old temple which was built in 16th century. It has a very beautiful location; it is next to Bretan Lake, facing the mountains. It is used to feed the lake’s water to the surrounding villages and rice paddies. I totally recommend you to visit this amazing temple during your visit to Bali.
Besides mountain and water temples, there are sea temples in Bali. The most famous ones are Uluwatu and Tanah Lot, facing the southern part of the island. You can reach to Tanah Lot by walking through the sea. However, the sea level was not low enough when we visit and it was wavy. Therefore we skipped to visit this temple. Uluwatu was in our list to visit, particularly for seeing the traditional Kecak dance; however we could not manage to see Uluwatu as we did not want to spend a lot of time on the road. Instead, we watch the Kecak performance in a temple in Ubud. It was very unique and transcendental experience. I will write about it in more detail in another post.
The last and most common temple type is the family temples at homes. Yes, every traditional Balinese house has a family temple, kind of small shrines. These shrines face north. These temples are dedicated to the ancestors; therefore it is not acceptable for Balinese people to sell their houses. They believe that bad things like death, accident, losing money etc. will happen if they sell the house.
Traditional Balinese houses are usually old and simple. However, the construction, decoration and land is different depending on the social status and wealth of the family.
A typical Balinese home consist of the detached units in a garden, next to the family shrines. The houses are surrounded by the walls. The main entrance is a small opening, which leads to to face another small wall. This small wall at the entrance means that whoever the kind visitor is welcome but the devil is not allowed to pass.
Parents, children, guests live at different units. There is also a separate unit for ceremonies, one for kitchen and another one for sanitary purposes. Balinese people love rooster fights and feed roosters in their gardens.
Lastly, I want to mention about daily offering ritual of the Balinese people. When you visit Bali, you will see a small offering of flowers & food, displayed in a basket of palm tree leaf in front of the houses, shrines, shops, on the pavement or even in the taxi cabs. This is something done on a daily basis for good fortune and doing away with the bad spirits.