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Pura (Balinese temple)

Pura (Balinese temple)

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A pura is a Balinese
Bali is an Indonesian island located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east...

 Hindu temple
Hindu temple
A Mandir, Devalayam, Devasthanam, or a Hindu temple is a place of worship for followers of Hinduism...

. and the place of worship for the adherents of Balinese Hinduism in Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

. Most of the puras are found on the island of Bali
Bali is an Indonesian island located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east...

, as Hinduism is the predominant religion in the island; however many puras exist in other parts of Indonesia where there are significant numbers of Balinese people
Balinese people
The Balinese population of 3.0 million live mostly on the island of Bali, making up 89% of the island's population. There are also significant populations on the island of Lombok, and in the eastern-most regions of Java The Balinese population of 3.0 million (1.5% of Indonesia's population) live...

. Mother Temple of Besakih
Mother Temple of Besakih
The Mother Temple of Besakih, or Pura Besakih, in the village of Besakih on the slopes of Mount Agung in eastern Bali, is the most important, the largest and holiest temple of Agama Hindu Dharma in Bali., Indonesia and one of a series of Balinese temples.-Architecture:The temple is actually a...

 is the most important, the largest and holiest temple in Bali. A large number of puras have been built in Bali, leading it to gain the nickname "the Island of a Thousand Puras".


The term pura originates from the Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 word (-pur, -puri, -pura, -puram, -pore), meaning "city", "walled city", "towered city", or "palace". During the development of the Balinese language
Balinese language
Balinese or simply Bali is a Malayo-Polynesian language spoken by 3.3 million people on the Indonesian island of Bali, as well as northern Nusa Penida, western Lombok and eastern Java...

 the term pura came to refer to a religious temple complex, while the term puri came to refer to palace
A palace is a grand residence, especially a royal residence or the home of a head of state or some other high-ranking dignitary, such as a bishop or archbishop. The word itself is derived from the Latin name Palātium, for Palatine Hill, one of the seven hills in Rome. In many parts of Europe, the...

, the residence of kings and nobles, similar to Javanese kratons.

Design and layout

Unlike the common towering indoor Indian
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 Hindu temple, puras are designed as an open air place of worship within enclosed walls, connected with a series of intricately decorated gates between its compounds. This walled compounds contains several shrines, meru (towers), and bale (pavilions). The design, plan and layout of the pura follows the trimandala concept of Balinese space allocation. Three mandala
Maṇḍala is a Sanskrit word that means "circle". In the Buddhist and Hindu religious traditions their sacred art often takes a mandala form. The basic form of most Hindu and Buddhist mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point...

 zones arranged according to a sacred hierarchy:
  1. Nista mandala (jaba pisan): the outer zone, which directly connects the pura compound with the outer realm, and the entrance to the temple. This zone usually takes the form of an open field or a garden that can be used for religious dance performances, or act as an additional space for preparations during religious festivals.
  2. Madya mandala (jaba tengah): the middle zone of the temple, where the activity of adherents takes place, and also the location for supporting facilities of the temple. In this zone usually several pavilions are built, such as the bale kulkul (wooden Slit drum
    Slit drum
    A slit drum is a hollow percussion instrument, usually a log drum of bamboo or wood, that is made with one or more slits in it. Most slit drums have three slits, cut into the shape of an "H". If, as is usual, the resultant tongues are different lengths or thicknesses, the drum will produce two...

     tower), bale gong (gamelan
    A gamelan is a musical ensemble from Indonesia, typically from the islands of Bali or Java, featuring a variety of instruments such as metallophones, xylophones, drums and gongs; bamboo flutes, bowed and plucked strings. Vocalists may also be included....

     pavilion), wantilan (meeting pavilion), bale pesandekan, and bale perantenan, the temple's kitchen.
  3. Utama mandala (jero): the holiest and the most sacred zone within the pura. This enclosed and typically highest of the compounds usually contains a padmasana, the towering lotus throne of the highest god, Acintya
    Acintya, also Atintya , also Tunggal is the supreme god of Hinduism as practiced in Indonesia , and most of all in the island of Bali, equivalent to the concept of Brahman...

     (or as he is often known to modern Balinese, Ida Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa). Pelinggih meru, the multiple roofed tower, is similar in design to Chinese
    Chinese architecture
    Chinese architecture refers to a style of architecture that has taken shape in East Asia over many centuries. The structural principles of Chinese architecture have remained largely unchanged, the main changes being only the decorative details...

     or Japanese
    Japanese architecture
    ' originated in prehistoric times with simple pit-houses and stores that were adapted to a hunter-gatherer population. Influence from Han Dynasty China via Korea saw the introduction of more complex grain stores and ceremonial burial chambers....

    A pagoda is the general term in the English language for a tiered tower with multiple eaves common in Nepal, India, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and other parts of Asia. Some pagodas are used as Taoist houses of worship. Most pagodas were built to have a religious function, most commonly Buddhist,...

    s. The most sacred compound also contains several pavilions, such as bale pawedan (vedic chanting pavilion), bale piyasan, bale pepelik, bale panggungan, bale murda, and gedong penyimpenan (storehouse of the temple's relics).

However, the layout rules for arrangements the facilities of the two outer zones, nista mandala and madya mandala, are somewhat flexible. Several structures, such as the bale kulkul, could be built as outer corner tower; also, the perantenan (temple's kitchen) could be located in the Nista mandala.


There are two types of gates within Balinese architecture: the split gate, known as candi bentar, and the roofed tower gate in Paduraksa style, usually called kori agung. Both types of gates have specific roles in Balinese architectural design. Candi bentar is the gate used in the nista mandala, while the kori agung is employed as the gate between the madya mandala and Utama mandala inner compounds. The rules for gate types are also valid for non-religious compounds such as puri, nobles' and kings' residences.

Types of pura

There are several types of pura, each serving certain functions of Balinese rituals throughout the Balinese calendar.
  • Pura kahyangan jagad: pura that are located in the mountainous region of the island, built upon mountain or volcano slopes. The mountains are considered as the sacred realm, the abode of gods or hyang
    Hyang is an unseen spiritual entity that has supernatural power in ancient Indonesian mythology. This spirit can be either divine or ancestral. The reverence for this spiritual entity can be found in Sunda Wiwitan, Kejawen, and Balinese Hinduism. In modern Indonesian this term tends to be...

  • Pura segara: pura that are located by the sea, usually important during the Melasti ritual.
  • Pura desa: pura that are located within villages or cities, serving as the center of Balinese people's religious activities.

Sad Kahyangan

The Sad Kahyangan, Sad Kahyangan Jagad or the "six temples of the world" are the six supremely holy temples in Bali. According to Balinese beliefs, they are the pivotal points of the island. They are:
  • Pura Besakih in Karangasem, the "mother temple" of Bali,
  • Pura Lempuyang Luhur in Karangasem,
  • Pura Goa Lawah in Klungkung
    Klungkung is the smallest regency of Bali, Indonesia. It has an area of 315 km2 and population of 169,906 . Its regency seat is Semarapura....

  • Pura Uluwatu in Badung,
  • Pura Batukaru in Tabanan, and
  • Pura Pusering Jagat (Pura Puser Tasik) in Gianyar.

Other famous puras in Bali include Tanah Lot
Tanah Lot
Tanah Lot is a rock formation off the Indonesian island of Bali. It is home of a pilgrimage temple, the Pura Tanah Lot and a popular tourist and cultural icon for photography and general exoticism.- History :...

 in Tabanan, where two puras were built on a coastal rock overlooking the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

 as the shrine to honor sea deities.

See also