Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tour Day #2 -- MountainTemples Rice Terraces

On the second day of touring Gede drove us to a more western area of the island, not far west but about central west. To go farther west would have involved staying overnight in a hotel and we did not want to leave the boat overnight. Seemed like we would never get away from the heavily populated areas. But eventually we made it through the capital of Denpassar and were headed up the mountainside to a temple at the top of a mountain.

Every temple has posted signs regarding who is allowed to enter. Most of these rules are the same for every temple. Here is a sample of the rules which were posted on this particular mountaintop temple:

“Those who are not allowed to enter the temple:
1. Ladies who are pregnant
2. Ladies whose children have not got their first teeth
3. Children whose first teeth have not fallen out yet
4. Ladies during their period
5. Devotees getting impure due to death
6. Mad ladies or gentlemen
7. Those not properly dressed
All devotees entering the temple should maintain cleanliness and environmental conservation.”

I guess number 5 means people who are diagnosed with a terminal illness. And I don’t think number 6 means angry people but crazy people. Every temple banned women who are menstruating. That seems to really bother those male priests for some reason. Reminds me of the book, “Clan of the Cave Bear.”

This temple was built in the 13th century and is a very large complex with a lake off to one side. Some of the statuary was worn smooth to the point that the statues were no longer identifiable. Priests were busily scraping lichen off the stone walls. This temple appeared to require a lot of maintenance. Possibly the very humid high-altitude jungle location contributed to the maintenance issue.

The temple grounds seem to go on forever as we walked up and down wide esplanades of stone steps from one temple to another. Many of the areas were off-limits to tourists. Other areas were open only for day-visitors for meditation. There was such an aura of peacefulness and tranquility. Here is a photo of Bill and Michael walking toward the lake with the shrine in the center. Up and down stone steps for hours.

A group of older women were inside the main courtyard of the temple making and weaving various items for an upcoming celebration ceremony. They had been weaving baskets for 5 days and had accumulated quite a pile already.

In the rear area which was forbidden to tourists were lots of pagodas. We have no idea of the significance of all these pagodas.

Rice Terraces
After the mountaintop temple Gede took us for a drive through the mountains to view the rice terraces. These are so pretty. Exactly what I wanted to see on Bali. We stopped for lunch at a hillside café with a pretty view, marred in my photos only by the telephone lines strung on the poles along the roadside.

We enjoyed a good lunch of traditional Balinese foods. Mine and Linda's were the traditional style spicy and tasted very good. Bill and Michael stuck to the bland tourist version of Balinese dishes. They served us red rice which is not sold in the stores but is grown locally. I bought a kilo just because it is so unique. The rice grains themselves are actually colored light red. The rice is a bit coarser and chewier than white rice. Another dish was the traditional Balinese finely chopped spicy green beans. Those were very tasty. Bill’s meal was served with a tiny bowl of ginger flower spicy pepper condiment. It was too spicy for him so he gave it to me and it complimented my meal perfectly. Bill and Michael drank a local Bitang beer. If I can get the photo uploaded, check out the size of those bottles.

After lunch we went back to touring temples. Bill and Michael were getting tired of temples by now. But the scenery in the mountains between the temples and with all the large and small rice terraces was breathtaking. BTW, the hillside rice terraces are irrigated from the top (of course); but the flow of the water is controlled by the property owner at the bottom of each terrace.

Crater Lake Temple
The next temple was originally built on a crater lake. It was way up on the top of a mountain in a volcano crater that filled to form a large lake. The original temple was a small pagoda with accompanying structure. These 2 structures seem to be stone floating on the lake. They have lots of carved stone frog statues surrounding the 2 temple buildings on the water.

Today there is a much larger temple on the ground near the original pagoda temple. It is divided into 3 major temple areas with impressive stone structures and courtyards. This temple is different than the others we visited. It just feels different.

There was a huge tree on the grounds where many people were gathered to make offerings and to pray. Remember, everything has a spirit and they believe a special spirit occupies that large tree.

Most of the temple grounds were devoted to well-landscaped gardens and pathways. Bill was getting his fill of temples by this point and was getting a bit silly. He needed a little time-out sitting under a tree.

Mengwi Moat Temple

Pura Taman Ayun Temple is located in the village of Mengwi, which is 18 kilometers west of Denpassar. This was our last temple of our tours. Taman Ayun temple is surrounded by a moat. Actually, it is surrounded by 2 moats. There is a large wide moat surrounding the entire temple complex and park. Near the center of the complex is the old temple and it also is surrounded by a smaller moat filled with the most unusual water lilies.

The history of this temple is closely associated with the beginning of the Raja of Mengwi. It was built in 1643 A.D. and was the Royal Family temple of the Raja. The temple is a place to worship and honor the Royal ancestors.

Following the pattern of most Balinese temples, there are 3 connecting temple yards. The innermost sanctum is surrounded by a chest-high stone wall and the water-lily moat. Visitors are forbidden in this inner sanctum. This innermost area is known at the Utama Mandala or highest circle. The middle yard is known as the Madia Mandala or the circle in between. The outer space is known as the Nista Mandala or the humblest circle. The various pagodas serve various purposes, including the housing of ancestors’ spirits of the Royal Family. Only special priests are allowed entry to this inner sanctum.

There are several shrines in the inner sanctum besides the one dedicated to the ancestors. These other shrines were built by the Raja to ensure that his kingdom and people would be able to share in the prosperity of the nation, and also to enable all the people at the village of Mengwi to conduct the religious ceremonies customary to Balinese life. The Royal Family no longer lives on the temple grounds. Today they live in a palace block or so away.

Bill has seen all the temples he cares to see. Hopefully he will recuperate from temple overload before we do a land tour of Cambodia next year for their magnificent temples. How can you visit Asia and not see this stuff!

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