Pura Ulun Danu Bratan

There are lots of temples in Bali, worshiping their Gods is a big part of their culture and so a lot of great scenic spots have also been reserved for temples. The buildings in Bali (with the exception of 1) are not allowed to be higher the 3 stories… or rather no higher than the highest temple they have.

I’ve been to most of the famous temples in Bali and decided to come back to Pura Ulun Danu Brantan because it never fails to give me a rather serene feeling that calms my spirits.  This temple is built by Gusti Agung Anom, King of Mengwi who also built the Pura Taman Ayun temple… also known as the Royal family temple or Beautiful Gardens Temple. You may view my last trip to both temples here.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, located by the western banks of Lake Bratan near the village of Candi Kuning, in the Bedugul Highlands at a level of 1239m. This temple is one of the most picturesque and most photographed temples in Bali.

Danu Bratan is inside the caldera of the now extinct volcano Gunung Catur. It is one of the main sources of irrigation in the Balinese highlands, and so the temple is dedicated to Dewi Danu, the lake goddess. There are a lot of fishing activities by the locals in this waters as well.

On the shore of the lake are two multi-tiered merus. The bigger, 11-tier menu ( the pagoda-like thing for the gods) is the abode of the god of Gunung Mangu. Gunung Mangu is said to be the abode of Wisnu, hence the meruis dedicated to Wisnu.

The other shrine is that of Lingga Petak. It is smaller and further away in the lake. This shrine, with a three-tier meru, is dedicated to Shiva. It is reachable only by canoe. When the shrine was renovated in 1968, three long round stones were discovered at the foundation, coloured red, white and black. The white stone was believed to be a “lingga”, a phallic symbol of Shiva, and associated with the worship of fertility.

Other than the beautiful lake, the temple is also surrounded by a pretty garden. I wasn’t there at the right season so while there were flowers blooming, they were in their brightest bloom.

Beautiful hydrangea grow on the temple grounds.

The unusual feature of this temple, to the left of the entrance to the first courtyard, is a Buddhist stupa with figures of Buddha meditating in the lotus position in niches on the square base. The stupa reflects the adoption of Buddhist beliefs by Balinese Hindus. I didn’t take a picture of the Buddha this time round. I find it extremely intrigued to see the harmonious display of 2 different religion… it would be wonderful if more religions and culture can be this open-minded.

The local legend of the area of Bedulu is that it was once the capital of a great kingdom with a semi-mythical pig-headed king, Dalem Beda-Hulu. Beda-Hulu possessed all sorts of magical powers and one of it includes being able to remove or replace his head. He used to sit and meditate, removing his head to reach the beyond. On one such occasion, an unnatural disturbance occurred and his servant dropped his head in the river. The king was forced to get a new head quickly so a nearby pig had his head chopped off to be taken to place on the neck of the king. Thereafter the king was forced to sit on a high throne and forbade his subjects to look up at him. Beda-Hulu means ” he who changed head”.

Other places of interest in the area of Bedulu is the Yeh Pulu reliefs and Goa Gajah. Yeh Pulu is a rock face with 25m of carvings by great giant architect-general, Kebo Iwa in the 14th century. Legends say that he did those carvings with his fingernails! Goa Gajah is also known as “Elephant Cave”. It overlooks the Petanu River and consists of a Siwaitic rock-cut cave, a bathing place, a monks’ chamber, a number of Buddhist rock-cut stuppas and statues, and several foundations. It is known as the 11th century Buddhist hermitage.

Before I digress any further, lets get back to the main temple courtyard of Pura Ulun Danu Bratan.

The main temple is called Pura Teratai Bang (Black Lotus Temple) is dedicated to Dewi danu, the goddess of the water and lakes. The many ceremonies conducted in this temple ensures the farmers a good water supply for their crops.  Then there’s a smaller temple, Pura Dalem Purwa, dedicated to the goddess of food.

Nearby are many fishing boats as the locals use this lake as their livelihood. The truly appreciate the wonders nature has bestowed upon them… be it fish from the sea or water to irrigate their crops.

One of the reasons I like the Balinese culture so much is that it always reminds me to give thanks to what I have. Too often our minds are in pursuit of the next want or we feel that we were given a bad lot in life. But the truth is, we have many things to be thankful and grateful for. The sun in the sky, the family and friends we have and the chance to step out and learn more about ourselves and of the world.

I may not live forever or have truck loads of cash but I am contented… on some days when I go to bed after I’ve slogged my day away and feeling totally exhausted; on days when things go wrong and I feel how small my life is… on those days, I go to bed thinking about my life and strangely, as insignificant as my life is, I’m contented. Contented to have my loving family and friends, contented to be alive with food on the table and a clean bed to sleep in.


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