MAGAZINE: EDITION APRIL
World Religions

Places of Worship – Pura Ulun Danu Beratan

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Fazal Ahmad, London, UK

Location: Bali, Indonesia

Belief: Hinduism

Era: 1633 CE

On the little island of Lake Beratan and near the mountains of Bedugul, a pagoda rises, dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva, built in 1633 CE. The lake is in Bali, one of the eastern Indonesian islands. In the Balinese psyche and according to Hindu tradition, mountains are the abode of the gods and the source of their water and food, whereas the sea poses a threat of evil and potential harm.

Hindu temples in Bali are called Puras. Typically, they consist of three courtyard areas that transition from the world to the spiritual. The first and outer courtyard is for the people, with spaces for meetings, arts, and food stalls. The middle rectangular courtyard is for offerings, whereas the inner courtyard holds the shrines and is dedicated to religious ceremonies.

The pagoda is the main feature of the temple. According to local Hindu traditions, a pagoda should always have an odd number of tapered roofs, and this pagoda has eleven storeys. The layout of the temple enables much of the devotion and ceremonies to take place in the open air. Being in one of the main sources of water for the island of Bali, offerings are dedicated to the water, lake and rivers, and the Balinese Hindu goddess Dewi Danu, as the lake is a significant water source on the island. As is often the case in southern Asia, the temple complex also accommodates a statue of Buddha (as) and a Buddhist Stupa facing south.

Although Indonesia is largely a Muslim nation, 87% of the population of the island of Bali practises Hinduism. Before the advent of Islam, Hinduism had come to the islands in the 1st century CE through Indian traders and priests. The mixture of Hindu and Buddhist features is common, as temples here adopt a syncretism of traditional Javanese animism and Hindu and Buddhist ideas. Islam reached the islands in the 14th century CE. Although Hinduism is now a minority religion in Indonesia, there are still almost 4.7 million adherents across the islands, making it the largest Hindu population outside of India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

The structure is sometimes given the nickname ‘Bali Temple on the Lake’, as the island is small, and from a distance, it looks like the Pagoda and temple are floating on the water.

References:

M. Kerrigan, Amazing Temples of the World (London, UK: Amber Books Ltd, 2021).

A. Mason, Spiritual Places – the World’s Most Sacred Sites (London, UK: Quercus Books, 2014).