Ulun Danu Batur Sacred Temple
Pura Ulun Danu: Head of the Lake Temple
This temple is at the northeast shore. It is not to be confused with Pura Ulun Danu Batur, which is on the rim of the caldera. It is especially important for the Balinese. Only here can you get holy water of a particular variety.
The water is collected from the lake itself, directly in front of the temple. Visitors have to wear a sash and not go near. Bathing is forbidden. The lake is the ultimate source of water for the rivers and springs that irrigate central Bali. It is therefore of the utmost importance. The temple priests say that the lake is fed by springs located at each of the wind directions. Each of the springs is the origin of water for that particular region of central Bali. So, farmers from North Bali collect their holy water from the northern spring of the lake and so on.
The villagers of nearby Songan maintain the temple.
Pura Ulun Danu Batur, Temple of the Crater Lake
This is Bali's second most important temple after Pura Besakih. It is the ceremonial throne for Dewi Danu, the goddess of the lake. There are dramatic, many-tiered, pagoda-like merus, often covered in mist from the lake. The goddess is honoured with a tall meru of eleven tiers, the highest number. The meru of her consort, the god of Mount Agung, has only nine. That indicates her importance.
According to legend Dewi Danu and the god of Mount Agung emerged from an erupting volcano in 231 on our calendar. Together they took control of the waters and lands of Bali. They are the complementary male and female gods of the island.
There are two other nine-tiered merus, dedicated to the god of Mount Batur and to the deified King Waturenggong. King Waturenggong is discussed in the article entitled Balinese History - Pre-history to the Europeans.
One of the most interesting shrines is a pavilion in the inner courtyard to the far left. It is Chinese looking, dedicated to a Chinese princess, who resembles one of the Barong Landung characters in the dance play.
The temple stands at the head, physically and symbolically, of the water temple system and controls all water in central Bali. It is the supreme water temple. The temple is maintained by the several hundred irrigation societies, subaks, of the surrounding regions. Subaks are described in the article entitled Balinese Origins, Volcanoes and Civilisation. They pray to the goddess of the lake for rulings on water distribution. The high priest, her earthly representative, lays down her rulings. The subaks also pray that there will be no crop pestilence and honour the mountain gods and deified ancestors.
The high priest is an interesting character. He is picked out as a young boy by a virgin priestess after his predecessor dies. He is a commoner from a particular descent group called the Paseks of the Black Wood. He wears his hair long, dresses in white, is called Jero Gede and has complete control over the temple. He is neither fully divine, nor fully human. He has a job for life.
The Paseks of the Black Wood believe that they are the oldest of the Balinese descent groups and that they pre-date the kings. The story is that soon after the gods took possession of Bali following the emergence of the goddess of Mount Batur and the god of Mount Agung, the great priest-god Mahameru visited them, He bathed in Lake Batur and then decided to go on to Besakih. On the way he saw a statue of black wood, which looked human and he brought it to life. He taught him sacred knowledge, so that there would be priests in Bali. He was the first human in Bali.
The second-ranking priest is called the Lesser Jero Gede. He comes from the Pasek Gelgel descent group. The Pasek Gelgel were commoners who became loyal servants of the Gelgel kings. The Lesser Jero Gede is identified with the nine-tiered merus for the god of Mount Agung and is therefore linked to Besakih and the court of Klungkung. The two main priests thus derive their powers from different sources.
Unlike other temples in Bali, it is permanently open, and has a permanent staff of priests. A virgin priestess selects the 24 permanent priests when they are children. They serve for life.
The age of the temple is unknown, but there are references to it in 11th century texts. There was an eruption of Mount Batur in 1905, when the lava stopped at the main entrance. It was damaged in the 1917 eruption, although again the lava stopped at the walls. Another eruption at 1 am on 3 August 1926 covered the temple in tons of rubble and the village in many feet of lava rocks. Some shrines were saved, and brought up the cliff to the rim of the crater, and the present temple built around them. The present temple is a reconstruction of nine previous temples.
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