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Besakih - The Mother Temple
High on the slopes of Bali's Mount Agung sits Pura Besakih, widely referred to as the "Mother Temple" of Hinduism in Bali. Pura Besakih, or Besakih Temple in English, is the largest of the island's 11,000 or so Hindu temples; its 35 shrines and halls draw devotees from all over Bali in massive numbers each year.
The world is lucky to have Besakih. In 1963 Mount Agung, a volcano, erupted and destroyed several nearby villages. Besakih was untouched.

The temple is generally agreed to date back to prehistoric times in Bali. It is named for Naga Besukian -- the dragon-God thought by pre-Hindu Balinese to inhabit this, the highest mountain in Bali. But at the beginning of the 11th Century Besakih became the state temple at a time when Bali was no mean kingdom. It has remained the state temple in some form or another ever since and is state supported today.

Like most Balinese temples, Besakih is not a closed building but a mostly open-air affair.

It is made up of courtyards with altars and shrines devoted to a number of gods. And those gods have better things to do than just hang around a temple; the Balinese believe that the gods visit a temple on particular dates -- and on those dates the Balinese hold festivals to honor (or placate) the gods. Of all the temples on Bali six are "supremely holy:" Pura Besakih, Pura Lempuyang Luhur, Pura Gua Lawah, Pura Batukaru, Pura Pusering Jagat, and Pura Uluwatu. Of these, Besakih stands higher than the others -- not because it sits some 3000 or so feet above the ocean on the mountain's side, but because it is more sacred to the Balinese. It is said to be the only classless, casteless temple on the island where any Balinese Hindu can come to worship.
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