Bali is known as the island of ten thousand temples and these holy places offer some of the best examples of local
Religion has traditionally played a key role in the life of the Balinese people and it impacts almost every aspect of their life. There are temples everywhere on the island. The traditional Balinese Hindu temple is known as a pura and Bali is sometimes referred to as the island of ten thousand puras. There are three main types of Hindu temple found on the island of Bali:
• Major temples in towns and areas of religious importance. Besakih Temple or Mother Temple is located on Mount Agung. Each of the large towns will have at least three major temples.
• Each village on Bali will have a village temple, and this is where people in rural areas will gather for important festivals. It is usual for each village to have at least one shrine devoted to each of the major gods – Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu.
• Homes in Bali are traditionally built inside a compound where all family members stay together. Each of these compounds will have a family temple which will be located to the north of the house.
A Balinese home is the result of a complex interweaving of various elements – a kind of feng shui, economic wealth, caste, kinship ties and social requirements. Balinese compounds are surrounded by high walls and have only a single small entrance, called the angkul-angku, on the side bordering the street.
Entrance defines the threshold between inside and outside. On one hand, Belinese admit welcome visitors, while on the other hand they can allow malign spirits to enter. So it is important that the entranceway is small, and that immediately inside one faces another smaller wall called the aling-aling, placed specifically to baffle uninvited spirits who are normally only capable of traveling in straight lines. As a further safeguard, a small shrine is often built just in front of the house facing the road. The offering of flowers and coconut leaves are placed in it to make spirits pause and reconsider any intention of entering.
Within the compound of Balinese homes, on the northern wall, you will see the family temple, actually a collection of at least five small shrines, usually placed on high pedestals. These are dedicated to ancestor worship and Hindu gods. A small pavilion near the eastern side of the temple complex, called the bale dangin, is traditionally used for cer- emonial purposes. It is important to dress appropriately for the temples and we are explaining all the rules in our next issue of Bali Pocket Magazine.■