When in Bali, especially if it is your first time, you cannot miss the Uluwatu temple tour. It isn’t just because of the importance of it in the Balinese heritage. It is far more than that. The Uluwatu temple offers you a fine display of the Balinese culture in the backdrop of its exotic location. The manner in which these elements come together at the Uluwatu temple actually created a dilemma for me. Which one should I spend my golden hour at? And the best part of it all, it wasn’t my first time here. It happened earlier and it happened again and it will happen the next time I go. Wondering what? Just read on!
History of the Uluwatu Temple
Pura Luhur Uluwatu – as is called in Bali, is one of the six “spiritual pillars”, revered by the Balinese Hindus. It dates back to the 10th century. Inscriptions credit a monk – Mpu Kuturan for this temple. In fact, the same monk is said to have built several other significant Balinese temples. A priest by the name – Dhang Hyang Dwijendra (also, called Danghyang Niratha), is said to have found his nirvana here. He is said to have reached this difficult location and then vanished with lightening. With such spiritual aura surrounding it, Uluwatu temple etched itself as one of the holiest places for the Balinese Hindus.
Ulu means tip and Watu refer to rock. Put it together and you get a clue of the location of the Uluwatu temple. The Uluwatu temple is located atop a hill, 70 m above sea level. The hill overlooks the Indian ocean giving the temple an exotic feel. The whole setting is in the middle of a forest – that of course, has depleted over time. However, owing to this strategic location, a visit to the Uluwatu temple firmly finds a top spot in the best things to do in Bali.
The architecture of the Uluwatu Temple
Given the importance of the Bali temple, I expected an elaborately carved shrine. This comes with the Hindu temples of India. However, to my surprise, the Uluwatu temple is far from it. It is a simple set of 3 shrines enclosed in a small area that is out of bounds for all except the Balinese Hindus. Even the Indian Hindus are not allowed to get in and have a look.
There are two entrances to the temple – one towards the north and the other to the south. The largest shrine that faces the sea is dedicated to Lord Shiva (Siva) while the other two are for Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma. The powers of these three Gods – the Trimurti as called in India- merge at this holy point. The Balinese dedicate their offerings to them – especially Siva Rudra – whom them consider as the deity of all elements of nature. Every year there is a festival for three days where thousands of Hindus across Bali come to pay their respect.
Now, knowing me, I bet you are wondering – if the temple isn’t so big, why the dilemma at Uluwatu temple?
My dilemma at Uluwatu
The Uluwatu Temple is open between 7 am to 7 pm. However, most Uluwatu temple tours take place around sunset. The reason for this is that you can catch one of the best Sunsets in Bali right here. In addition to that, there is a daily performance of the famous Balinese Dance – Kecak dance that people love to catch. And therein lies my dilemma at the Uluwatu temple.
On one side, I had these lovely sea views that I wanted to take in. And then there was the golden ball of sun going down while at the same time, we were to catch the Kecak dance. Arggh! Over my two trips to Uluwatu, I did manage to take all this in but not without getting torn over which one to focus on. I bet when you go through the rest of my guide to Uluwatu temple, you too will be in a soup. It will be interesting to know your choice – just remember to leave a comment in the end about it.
The exotic sea view from the Uluwatu Hill
There is something calming to see the waves lash against the rocks. Angry, calm or even the playful ones. It was this that I loved at the Uluwatu hill. Walking along the long walls of the Uluwatu temple, you get plenty of viewpoints to see this drama of the water, sand and the rocks. Add to this a colorful splay of bougainvillea. They create such picturesque spots for your framed memories. Somehow, I could not tear myself away from the lure of finding these photo points.
Sadly, with the golden hour coming close, you are forced to abandon this hunt and start focusing on the golden hues behind the temple. The only consolation is that the music of the waves and the salty breeze promise to keep you company.
Uluwatu Temple Sunset
There are generally two places in Bali that are recommended for a beautiful sunset by a sea temple. One is Tanah Lot and the 2nd is Uluwatu temple. I have been lucky to have witnessed both of them. And no – I cannot pick as to which one was better. Even after having visited Uluwatu the 2nd time, I still cannot make that decision.
The Sunset at Uluwatu temple gives you that perfect silhouette of the temple before the sky reflects a kaleidoscope of colors. On a clear day, you can almost trace the sun going past the temple and sinking into the sea. I particularly love the way those golden rays ignite the bougainvillea – turning the pink into fiery orange.