Bali has tens of thousands of temples and they come in all sizes. Often the larger temples, or pura, feel like a tourist trap with tour buses and drink stalls lined up or hundreds of meters outside the main gate. One of my favourite temples in Pura Luhur Batukaru in Tabanan. This temple is located on the southern slope of the second highest volcano in Bali and sits in a forested area. The tranquility of Pura Luhur Batukaru combined with the forest gives me a peaceful feeling. Known as the Garden Temple it is located approximately 40 kms NW of Denpasar.
•History of Pura Luhur Batukaru:
Pura Luhur Batukaru is one of the kayangan jagat (directional temples), that protect Bali from evil spirits. Pura Luhur Batukaru protects Bali from the west. There are 9 kayangan jagat altogether and they are always temples that occupy auspicious locations, such as the sides of tall volcanoes or overlooking the ocean. Other kayangan jagat include Pura Besakih and Pura Luhur Uluwatu.
Pura Luhur Batukaru was originally built in the 11th century and was dedicated to the ancestors of the rajas of Tabanan. The temple was destroyed in 1604, but rebuilt in 1959. The most important shrine at Pura Luhur Batukaru is the 7-tiered meru that is in honor of the God of Gunung Batukaru, Mahadewa.
Galungan is the most important ceremony of the year in Bali and during that time people come from far and wide to pray. The holy waters of Pura Luhur Batukaru are used by members of the subak (water course governing body) for ceremonies to the Gods to ensure fertility of the land. If they pay their respects to the Gods controlling the water, they will always get water.
•Getting to Pura Luhur Batukaru:
My ride from Seminyak took me close to Tanah Lot, through the town of Tabanan and north through Penebel. I was actually exploring some small roads and marking them with my GPS. Needing a constant line of sight to the satellites I started off with the thing hooked to the hook on the front of my bike. Later on I moved it to the strap of my bag.
Back on the road that goes from Penebel to Senganan, I stopped at a tiny roadside shop for a teh panas (hot black tea) and a little snack. The lady who owned the shop couldn’t speak a word of English, but became the local celebrity, as the other locals across the street laughed and shouted to her as she tried to get through our transaction. The location of this little place is (08 26.776S 115 07.972E) for those who just have to know.
My little sweet snack and tea cost 2,000rp. I said goodbye and headed off towards the off for Pura Luhur Batukaru, heading north. The trip from Seminyak to Pura Luhur Batukatu took about 1 hour 10 minutes with the short stop.
Heading down the dead end road that leads to Pura Luhur Batukaru I overtook at a tour bus with 4 people in. At the parking lot I was the only visitor, and tying my sarong and sash, headed to the ticket counter to give my donation of 4,000rp. Placing this in the locked box, I passed my helmet to the 2 Balinese guys manning the office. They will lend you sarongs and sashes if you don’t have them.
The first things that strikes me about Pura Luhur Batukaru is the fresh air. You will notice the cooler temperatures coming from Kuta. Riding my motorbike, I hit a band of cooler air about 15 minutes south of the temple. It wasn’t freezing though, just refreshing and silent.
The south side of Gunung Batukaru gets a ton of rain and the ever present cloud cover means a humid climate. The stonework at the temple is covered in moss. I’m no bird expert, but my guidebook says this area is rich in birdlife, ranging from scarlet minivets, grey-headed flycatchers and barbets.
Toilet facilities are provided, but there is no food / drinks.
•Exploring Pura Luhur Batukaru:
Heading inside the outer courtyard, I passed through a candi bentar (split gate). Balinese temples usually have either 2 or 3 courtyards (outer, middle, inner). The jaba (outer courtyard) is the realm of the people, where public dances will take place, the jaba tengah (middle courtyard), is a transition area between the realm of people and the realm of the Gods. Offerings are prepared here and sacred temple gear is stored here. The jeroan (inner courtyard) is the realm of the Gods is the focus of all ritual ceremonies.
All shrines are here including the padmasana in the far right corner. The padmasana is the raised throne where the supreme deity, Sanghyang Widi Wasa, sits, his back towards the most sacred mountain, Gunung Agung. The padmasana is supported on the back of a cosmic turtle, the Bedawang, which carries the universe on its back.
All temple layouts are slightly different, due to the unique sites that each occupy. Puru Luhur Batukaru has a section off to the right towards a watergarden. I walked down from the outer courtyard to this, and along to the area where holy water is gathered. The watergarden was built in honor of Danau (lake) Tamblingan. In the middle of the pond is an island which is off-limits to everyone but the pemankus and pedanda’s (priests) of the temple. The inner courtyard and courtyard areas around the water springs are off limits, as sign in English indicate. I could still peer over the wall and see ceremonial equipment ready for use.
•Where to stay at Pura Luhur Batukaru:
After my trip to Pura Luhur Batukaru, I rode back down towards Wongayagede then hit the small trails. I have previously stayed overnight at the Eco Lodge, which is located on the southern slope of Gunung Batukaru. Wongayagede is located just south of the temple and is only 2kms from the trailhead that leads up the mountain. There is accommodation at Wongayagede, the Prana Dewi. This place offers a good level of comfort, with carefully made bungalows. The other place to stay is 750 meters east along the Wongayagede – Jatiluwih road, called Warung Kaja. Both places have a restaurant, though the rooms at Kaja are cheaper and simpler.
Staying up in the cool fresh air of the mountains will allow you to relax, and settle into a pace of life more like the locals.