Hinduism, as the world’s oldest religion, has traveled all across the world since the dawn of time. This polytheistic religion is one of the most well-known and widely practiced religions in the world, particularly in Southeast Asia. Even while each culture interprets religion differently, the essential beliefs remain the same. The Besakih temple in Bali is an excellent example of this.

Besakih Temple, Indonesia: Bali's Mother Temple - Sheet1
The grand Stairway_©www.istockphoto.com

Besakih Temple is a vast complex of more than 86 clan temples and shrines on the south-western slopes of Mount Agung – is commonly referred to as Bali’s “mother temple.”Its great elevation provides breathtaking views of the area, including rice farms, hills, mountains, and streams.

Bali’s Besakih Temple is the largest and holiest of the island’s temples.  Each shrine has its

Besakih Temple, Indonesia: Bali's Mother Temple - Sheet2
Relegious Sculptures At Besakih Temple_©in.hotels.com

History of Besakih Temple

Because of its significant religious practice and the hundreds, if not thousands, of temples that dot the island, Bali has been dubbed the “island of the gods.”

Three significant temples dedicated to the Hindu trinity may be seen in Pura Besakih. Pura Penataran Agung at the central is decorated with white colors for Shiva, the destructive; Pura Kiduling Kreteg placed at the right is decorated with red colour for Brahma, the originator; and Pura Batu Madeg is decorated with black colours for Vishnu, the sustainer.

The centre stone, known as batu ngadeg, is housed at the shrine of Meru Tumpang Sebelas at Pura Batu Madeg. Vishnu is said to have appeared at this location. The Persatuan temple (quadrangular-shaped with two lines of 16 poles) is located in the courtyard of Pura Batu Madeg, in front of Meru Tumpang Sebelas, and shows how Vishnu’s light interacts with the world.

Besakih Temple, Indonesia: Bali's Mother Temple - Sheet3
A Picturesque View AT Besakih Temple_©www.istockphoto.com

A centre stone at Pura Batu Madeg indicates that the Pura Besakih area has been venerated as a sacred spot from ancient times. During his isolation in the seventh century, a Hindustani monk got revelations to create shelters for humanity. During this time, many of his followers died as a consequence of disease and accidents. It was given the name “Basuki” in honour of the dragon god “Naga Besukian,” who is thought to reside atop Mount Agung. Eventually, the name was changed to ‘Besakih.’

During the Majapahit Empire’s conquest of Bali in 1343, other shrines were gradually built, and Pura Besakih was made the main temple. Due to earthquakes in 1917 and Mount Agung’s series of eruptions in 1963, Pura Besakih has undergone various repairs since then. According to locals, the lava flow spared Pura Besakih because the gods wanted to demonstrate their power without destroying the holy structure.

The four temples in the complex reflect the four gods who preside over their respective compass points. Pura Batu Madeg lies to the north, Pura Kiduling Kreteg lies to the south, Pura Gelap lies to the east, and Pura Ulun Kulkul lies to the west.

Besakih Temple, Indonesia: Bali's Mother Temple - Sheet4

Besakih Temple – The Quintessential Balinese Architectural structure 

The Besakih Temple complex is built in the style of Bali’s iconic Balinese architecture. Balinese architecture is a tropical architectural style native to Asia that has a special flare for being in sync with nature. The design is based on the well-known Indonesian island of Bali, which attracts a huge number of foreign visitors who are drawn to the province’s heritage, laid-back way of life, and plenty of environmental assets. 

Thanks to its miles of magnificent beaches, picturesque mountains, and calm countryside, Bali has become one of the world’s top attractions and has had a big impact on the world of architecture and design.

The architectural design’s concepts concentrate on Hinduism, spatial order, and communal social interactions.

  1. Tri Hata Karana – Creating equilibrium and harmony between the three components of life: the man, the natural world, and the divine.
  2. Tri Mandala – zoning and space partition rules
  3. Sanga Mandala – a system of principles for zoning and space partitioning based on directions.
  4. Tri Angga – an idea or hierarchy that exists between many realms.
  5.  Tri Loka – akin to Tri Anna but with a different realm system.
  6.  Asta Kosala Kosali – For symbols, shrines, stages, and units of measurement, there are eight architectural design standards to follow.
  7.  Arga Segara — holy axis connecting mountain and sea
Besakih Temple, Indonesia: Bali's Mother Temple - Sheet5
Devotees at Besakih Temple_©in.hotels.com

Balinese architecture is based on these beliefs and focuses on four strengths:

  1. A good ventilation system – large windows are employed in Balinese homes and luxury villas to give full attention to air movement. A big open area is also formed between the roof and the wall.
  2. A Firm Foundation – The human body, according to the Tri Loka concept, is akin to a building, and a structure with a firm foundation, such as human feet, is immensely powerful.
  3. A Large Yard – A traditional Balinese house or villa must have a large yard to commune with the natural surroundings, which is founded on the philosophy of being in harmony with nature.
  4. A high wall conceals the dwelling from public view, offering privacy and protection from other people, as well as warding off black magic and evil spirits.
Besakih Temple, Indonesia: Bali's Mother Temple - Sheet6
Worship and Rituals at Besakih Temple_©www.jonnymelon.com

The Besakih Temple plays an important role in today’s social and urban fabric, uniting the rich cultural history with the modern generation. Not only because the pilgrimage site attracts visitors from all over the world, but also because it offers a pleasant contrast between new and heritage structures in the Balis structural skyline. This contrast exemplifies how a country can progress while remaining linked to its roots. 

To this day, the Besakih temple is an important part of Bali’s culture, celebrating the city’s people’s unity regardless of caste or gender. The structure is a symbol of hope and unity, and it is a popular tourist attraction in Bali.


Hotels.com. (2021). Besakih Temple in Bali – Bali’s Mother Temple – Go Guides. [online] Available at: https://in.hotels.com/go/indonesia/besakih-temple.

Anon, (2015). The Balinese Architecture and Its Design Philosophy. [online] Available at: https://www.theluxurysignature.com/2015/02/06/balinese-architecture-overview-and-design-philosophy/.

www.indonesia.travel. (n.d.). Pura Besakih – Indonesia Travel. [online] Available at: https://www.indonesia.travel/sa/en/destinations/bali-nusa-tenggara/bali/pura-besakih

 [Accessed 3 Oct. 2021].


Abhishek Guha is an architecture undergraduate who wishes to create life altering spaces & experiences through his designs . His interests - writing, fashion, and cooking, are as erratic as he is. As a spontaneous extrovert who enjoys meeting new people, he seeks knowledge about the architectural paradigm while exploring the world.