Penglipuran - Besakih - Klunkung

Excursion n°6 - On the way to the East

 

Program

 

8 h 30 : départ de Balam Bali villa.
10 h 00 : visite du village de Penglipuran.
11 h 30 : départ pour Besakih.
13 h 00 : arrivée à Besakih, pause déjeuner dans une gargote locale, puis visite des temples.
15 h 00 : descente vers Klungkung, visite du pavillon flottant et de la salle de justice.
18 h 30 : arrivée à la villa.

Please note

  • Les prix comprennent uniquement le déplacement en voiture, aller/retour.
  • This does not include the services of a guide, meals, and site entrance fees (except for the guests taking our package).
  • For each excursion, a sarong is given to the guests.
  • Un guide en français ou en anglais à Besakih est conseillé. Le prix sera discuté avec le guide avant la visite et sera réglé par les participants, directement. De l’ordre de 5 USD par personne (inclus pour les clients du forfait 7 jours/6 nuits).

 

Map of the track

 

 

The village of Penglipuran

 

Acclaimed among the major tourist sites, this charming village has benefited from a highly successful restoration program. It looks as if it had been popped into a conservation jar where nothing might intervene to contaminate it. Too clean, too swept up, perhaps over-polished, but magnificent all the same! The grandiloquent avenue flanked with houses either side, goes towards the magnificent temple, with its facades coated with moss and roofs secured with bamboo lagging.

 

The village has indeed always been noted for its specialization in bamboo, which the villagers handle with remarkable dexterity and originality. Penglipuran remains the centre for the finest woven baskets, the celebrated offering baskets. It is also renowned for its curious roofs, unmatched in all Bali even if this very specificity runs the risk of monotony. The inhabitants will invite you to visit their homes in the hope of selling you a basket. All the young people have departed, without future even as guides since most groups arrive with their own guides.

 

Climbing to the temple is a spectacular experience. On the left, right in front of the temple, you will discover the Bale Agung, the great village meeting house. The principal trading resource for the villagers lies beyond, in the 75 hectare bamboo forest.

 

The village has been founded about 1000 years ago. Its location is very special. It is exactly South of Mount Batur, and West of Mount Agung. Giving a sacred orientation to the village was a tricky challenge for its founder. If it had been oriented towards Mount Batur, this would have made Mount Agung furious, and vice-versa. A clever solution was then proposed: the village, in its globality, is oriented direction North, towards Mount Batur. The main street indeed goes up, by a succession of landings symbolising a long ascent to the world of the gods, meaning “up”. At the end of the village, the superb temple closes the street. Penglipuran is the only village in Bali with a perspective. It confers to the village its majestic character.

 

In order to celebrate as well the powerful god Agung, all the family temples are oriented to Mount Agung and not to Mount Batur. This double orientation is unique and results in a superb mother plan guiding the constructor who created the village.

The plan of the village can be seen as a cosmological representation of the religious world of most of the Balinese:

 

  • down the village, at the lowest spot, are the cremation field and the cemetery. It symbolizes the world of the impurity, and that of the spirits,
  • the main street, with the dwelling houses, is the world of humans,
  • the temple on top is the world of the Hindu gods and that of the Ancestors.

 

This cosmogonic representation is expressed in the shape of the simple temples that can be seen everywhere in Bali, mostly in the rice fields. The base is the world of the spirits, the pillar is the world of the humans and the throne on the top is the world of the gods.

 

The number of houses remained unchanged: 76. If a family wishes to extend a house for a new family member, this can only be done at the back of the house. Every family possesses one hectare of the bamboo forest. Just before the temple, one can see a superb long house, dedicated to the meeting of the married men of the village, forming the council of Penglipuran. There as well, women prepare offerings for the temple ceremonies.

 

The temple is remarkable by its size, the superb long houses and the unique bamboo covering on the roofs. The first pavilion on the left, behind bamboo curtains, contains the superb gamelan instrument. The holy court contains a large number of shrines. One of them presents a large stone. Nobody in the village seems to remember what is the meaning of this strange shrine. It probably dates back to the oldest age of Penglipuran, when the first occupation is mentioned, in the 8th century.

 

 

The Bamboo Forest Walk

20 minutes de promenade

 

When you are facing the temple, walk 100 meters to the right, until you reach the road. Turn left and walk 150 meters up, along the road. The road then turns 90° to the left. Go straight, inside the Bamboo forest, along a paved alley. The walk is pleasant, in a strange and superb forest. Do not touch the bamboo, the creamy sections are covered with microscopic needles! The walk makes a loop that will lead you back to the road. Go down the road for about 20 meters and you will see on the left a little path marked with offering that will bring you back to the forest.

 

After 30 metres, you will reach the most mysterious temple of Bali, the temple to the spirit of Mother Earth. The temple is just a square (around 7 x 7 metres) cleared inside the forest. The entrance is made of planted bushes, leaving some space in the middle to enter the square. Do not enter! This temple is believed to be extremely powerful. Villagers from Penglipuran reported to us that only people with adequate offerings can enter the square without risk. Others would be lost in the square, desperately searching for the exit. Some people perform black magic inside the temple to cast spells against enemies, neighbours or family members. Go back to the main road, follow it downwards until it turns 90° left. Go straight on and you will eventually walk along the wall of the temple, back to the village.

 

 

Besakih temple

 

The temple of Besakih is the most important sanctuary on the island. It is a group of numberless temples, a city of temples indeed, destined for the great families of Bali, as well as a collection of “generic” temples dedicated to the Hindu trinity: Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu. The road from Penglipuran to Besakih is very picturesque; you will cross villages specialized in the production of wood carved temples for the family temples present in all Balinese family houses.

We recommend you to take a guide to visit Besakih temple. Firstly, you will no longer be aggressed by guides offering you their services, once you have already chosen one. Next, some explanations will help you to understand the complexity of this site, which is for the Balinese the ‘Navel of the World’. It should be noted that contrary to their insistence, the guide is NOT obligatory. There are guides speaking French and English. It must be admitted that the way to the temple is somewhat disagreeable. It is also advisable to bring a sarong in order to avoid the aggressions of the temple merchants.

Please note that many of these guides are also students who are struggling to pay their studies. If you don’t want a guide, our map below can help you visit the temples of Besakih. Please do not be too close to the Balinese who are praying, and do not enter into the private family temples.


Temple BesakihHaving finally entered into the sanctuary, it is difficult to avoid noticing an impressive flight of stairs climbing to the principal temple. After prayer, the Balinese descend in vast groups the steps they have mounted by side aisles. These Balinese often arrive by truck, in which they can be as many as 50 piled into the truck skip. It is a moving spectacle during ceremonies to see the rails of the tip-lorry open on all these Balinese splendidly dressed with turban, sarong and “over-sarong, not to mention the women laden with offerings, advancing towards the main temple.

 

This temple, the Pura Penataran Agung, is dedicated to Shiva, not to the Hindu trinity indicated by the three thrones on the sanctuary altar. The three thrones are actually representing the three manifestations of the god Shiva. It is not possible to enter the temple, but the ceremony may be viewed by taking the path leading to the left of the immense staircase and peering through the wall (which is not as shocking as it might appear). If you have taken a guide, he will lead you a few metres into the sanctuary bordering the places of prayer. Do not accept any kind of solicitation to get a benediction or to pray. It would be a trick resulting in a fine to pay at a very high cost!

 

This temple alone is one element of a Hindu trinity constituted by this temple (Pura Penataran Agung) for Shiva, by the temple Pura Kiduling Kreteg for Brahma (on the right) and finally Pura Batu Madeg for Vishnu (on the left). These three temples reproduce at the most sacred level of the island the same structure as the village temples, with the Pura Puseh (temple of origins), the Pura Desa (temple of the village), and the Pura Dalem (temple of the dead). The three temples of Besakih are therefore like village temples, but at the scale of the whole island. It is the inhabitants of the entire island that gather there when the major ceremonies take place once every hundred years.

 

These three temples are also cardinal temples, the great Trinity temple representing the Centre, the Kiduling Kreteg, the South, the Batu Madeg the North, then the Gelap for the East and the Ulun Kulkul for the West. Each district of the island is associated with one of these temples. The three temples also symbolize the three elements: Pura Pemataran Agung symbolizes the Wind (Destruction), Pura Batu Madeg the Water (particularly worshipped by the farmers) and Pura Dangin Kreteg the Fire (creation).


Around these general temples are added temples for the great family lineages of the island, we can particularly see them when one climbs on the right hand-side of the main sanctuary. If your guide has a family temple, ask him to take you there to pray. Learn the very beautiful gesture of prayer, with the flower between the fingers. Even if one is agnostic, it is very touching. The highest temple, the Pura Gelap, is very strange. Carved out of black lava, it possesses a disturbing nature. A staircase framed by a spectacular double rank in the form of a snake-dragon climbs towards the sanctuary. It is often in the clouds, which reinforces its mystic power. Please do not go further than the first courtyard even if the guide invites you to do it.

 

Klungkung Court of Justice

 

In a park of this ancient royal capital subsists the Taman Gili, two buildings which remain the last vestiges of a vast palace destroyed by the Dutch in 1908 after the collective suicide of the whole royal family and its Court. The best-known pavilions of the group is not the largest floating in the middle of the water, but the smallest on the corner, called Kerta Gosa. This bale or palace presents cycles of traditional Balinese paintings over the whole interior surface of its roof structure. Despite the continual patching up and restoration, they constitute a unique monument on the island. This pavilion was apparently the council chamber where the king and the priests gathered to debate the interests of the kingdom. It later assumed the function of court of justice. The Mahabharata and moral tales of Indian origin have inspired the paintings spread over 267 panels. This iconography has served to help the understanding of punishments risked for poor conduct.

 

The great bale placed in the middle of the pool is the Kambang Bale or floating pavilion. The wooden structure of the building was rebuilt during the 1940’s. The ceiling paintings show scenes of Balinese mythology, particularly scenes from the life of a Buddhist saint, Sutasoma, who showed his force without ever slipping into aggression.

 

The museum closing one side of the site is barely worth the visit, apart from a single model of the palace that helps to understand the considerable patrimonial losses caused by the Dutch during the wars against the kingdoms of Bali about one hundred years ago.

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