Indonesia Series Part-II. Appeared in December 2016 issue of Smart Photography, India’s Premier Photography Magazine.
Bali – A Little India in Indonesia
In my previous travel story, we travelled to Lombok (LOMBOK – BALI OF 70s). Let’s embark on a Bali journey this time.
I will start this journey by asking a question – in how many locations outside India would you get a feeling that you are in the land of Mahabharata, Bhagwat Gita, and Ramayana?
Not many, I guess. But in Bali, I constantly kept getting reminded of India’s holy epics!
Bali ranks high every time a travel conversation veers towards beaches, water sports, nightlife, backpacking, volcanoes, and more. But one fact that gets seldom talked about is the Hindu influence here. Of the 17,000-odd islands that form the Indonesian archipelago, Bali is the only officially Hindu island.
We were staying in Seminyak, an area surrounded by Kuta, Denpasar, and North Kuta. To give you a further sense of its location, let me just say that it is on the rear edge of the lower fin of this fish-shaped island – and this fish is swimming from left to right.
Seminyak is a lot quieter than Kuta. But then, that’s not saying much as even this area is a major travel hub in Bali with the presence of many luxury hotels including the Oberoi Bali. It is fast developing into the high-street shopping capital of Bali.
One of the days, we decided to travel to northwest Bali to visit the scenic Besakih Temple. This complex has 23 separate, yet related temples, located on 6 levels on the slope of the highest mountain in Bali – Mount Agung. We were glad we were accompanied by a guide from our hotel as he was well prepared and had carried sarongs. The scam here is that the touts insist you hire a sarong at an exorbitant rental of US$ 25-30 each and they also compulsorily force you to engage a guide at equally ridiculous fees.
Mount Agung is normally covered in clouds. But, during our visit, we were fortunate to have seen it. Making our way to the temple complex, high humidity made its presence felt and we were sweating profusely. It is definitely advisable to wear a hat during a visit to Besakih.
Besides various other Hindu deities, there is also a Vishnu temple at the highest level of the complex. Intricately carved sculptures and idols adorn this temple. The compound of this temple accords the best view to the spread-out temple complex!
While returning from Besakih Temple, we took a detour and went to Goa Gajah – a cave temple with a recently excavated Sarovar (pond). Both, the cave entrance and the Sarovar had superb sculptures and carvings of gods and goddesses – some from Hindu mythology. Inside the cave, there is an idol of Lord Ganesha!
A usual drive through Ubud took us past a string of streets, each one lined with art galleries displaying Balinese and other art.
The roundabouts across our route had well-painted and well-maintained sculptures – from Geeta Updesh to Arjuna with his bow and arrow, from Rama with the monkey army to Vishnu killing a demon while riding Garuda!
It is interesting that the manifestations of these gods and mythological characters resemble Hindu gods, mythological characters, and their accepted form. Vishnu riding the Garuda is holding the conch shell and chakra; while Arjuna clearly seems to be wielding his favoured bow – Gandiva!
Tanah Lot and Uluwatu
We spent a couple of sunsets at scenic Balinese Temples dedicated to sea gods. Both, Tanah Lot as well as Uluwatu form a part of the seven temples dotting the south-western coast of Bali. Both are dedicated to Rudra, the Vedic manifestation of Shiva.
While Tanah Lot gets surrounded by seawater in high tide, Uluwatu is perched on a cliff that is 70 metres high.
Local guides recommend that the traveller should visit these temples around sunset. While sunset does add magic to these temples, getting good images of these temples around sunset definitely poses a challenge!
You may choose to shop in touristy Kuta or pricey Seminyak, experience the colourful nightlife across the entire southwestern Bali, or closely interact with free-spirited and talented Balinese artists in Ubud.
You may even decide to do the wildlife trails in Bali to check out the elephants and a wide variety of monkeys. It may be your wont to trek the volcanos and jungles, or indulge in exotic water sports.
But if you are as fascinated with the Hindu discovery outside India as I am, I definitely recommend that you visit the places I have shared in this travel story. You may even choose to do one better by hunting out and discovering a few more gems and come back with story richer than mine!