Positioned on top of a large cliff as tall as 70 m over the roaring Indian ocean waves, Uluwatu Temple is a sea temple located in the Southern coast of Bali, Indonesia. The panoramic view of the blazing sun setting on the massive crag that overlooks the silhouette of the sacred temple amidst the clear bluish-gray ocean is one of the most satisfying experiences of my vacation in Bali.
Uluwatu consist of two Balinese words, ‘Ulu’ and ‘Watu.’ 'Ulu' means a high place or tip. ‘Watu’ means stone. Uluwatu translates to a building made from stone and located on the highland or end of the cliff. Hinduism being the predominant religion in Bali has significant "sea temples" to honor the gods of the sea. The Balinese Hindus believe that the three divine powers of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva become one at the Uluwatu temple. This belief results in making this temple a place of worship of Siva Rudra, the Balinese Hindu deity of all elements and aspects of life in the universe. Uluwatu Temple is also dedicated to protecting Bali from evil sea spirits.
There are two different opinions concerning the history of the temple. While some claim the existence of the temple since the 9th century based on the archaeological finds that prove the temple to be of megalithic origin, other people claim it to be built by a monk in the 16th century. Legend has it that monk Dang Hyang Nirartha attained salvation (Moksha) here on his spiritual journey, making this an enshrined temple for the Balinese Hindu.
The Monkey Forest
To enter the walkway of the temple one has to pace through the troubling Monkey forest. The small forest habitats hundreds of monkeys who are notorious for snatching visitors' belongings. They can usually be persuaded into trading the items for fruit, although this only encourages them to steal more. They are believed to guard the temple against bad influences, and you’ll notice the locals not being hard or severe on the monkeys.
Nonetheless, the artful pathway to the temple fortified by concrete walls on the cliff side with hordes of grey long-tailed macaques does add an exotic and animated feature to the splendid landmark.
As you enter, you’ll notice the inner court of the temple is an open space paved with stone floor. Puras are built in accordance to the style, guidance, and rituals found in Balinese architecture. Puras is designed as an open-air place of worship within enclosed walls, connected with a series of intricately decorated gates between its compounds. These walled compounds contain several shrines, Meru (towers), and bale (pavilions). Access to the inner temple is for Hindu worshippers only, and you’ll need to dress in respectful attire when you do visit the temple.
Small offerings called ‘Canang sari’ are often left on the ground. Palm leaves are woven into a little box with flower petals that symbolize different gods, money and snacks are found inside. These offerings are fashioned to appease the spirits. Be careful not to step over or tread on the offerings. It is also important to refrain from taking photos of worshippers or climbing all over the shrine to click a photograph.
The most impressive visual that anyone sees in Uluwatu temple is its incredible prime location. Precariously perched between heaven and earth, the majestic beauty is a virtual maze. Bobbing between the layers of clouds and the waves of white foam lapping against the cliffs at the foot of the ocean is a pleasing entity. But don't think that you'll have this sanctuary to yourself. If you are there to catch the sunset, you will have to find a way to forget about the army of tourists.
Most travelers enjoy the view of this temple from two different vantage points, the northern and southern part of the area. The two entrances to the temple area are subjected to split gates with leaves and flowers carvings. The entrance to the ancient Hindu temple is through an archway decorated with statues of the Hindu elephant deity Ganesha. Made from black coral rock, the tiered shape of the sea temple has a dramatic effect on creating a spectacular silhouette at every sunset.
Unlike some other tourist destinations in Bali, Uluwatu Temple area has limited amounts of hassling vendors. A guide is not necessary, though helpful. The service offered is hassle-free at very minimum prices.
Uluwatu Kecak Dance
One attraction not to miss in Uluwatu Temple is the traditional Balinese dance called Kecak dance that is scheduled after the sunset. These performances are obviously for tourist benefit and are not spiritually significant to the temple. However, they are an exciting way to get a glimpse into Balinese performance art, and the setting is stunning.
Until 1983, Pura Uluwatu was hardly accessible and certainly not open to tourist. To think about not having access to one of the most important and ancient architectural marvel of Bali is disheartening. Favorably, that is not the case for now. As long as you remember that the temple you are in is a space of reverence to the Balinese people, and treat it as such, your temple visit is sure to bring you the happiness and enlightenment you seek.
Shilpa Srinivas @flohwithme
Location: Pecatu, South Kuta, Badung Regency, Bali, Indonesia
Opening Hours: 09:00 – 18:00.
As a place of worship however, it is open 24 hours daily
Uluwatu Temple: 30,000 IDR (Approx Rs 200/- as of 2018)
Kecak Dance ticket: IDR 100,000 (Approx Rs 500/-)
Sarongs are available for rental at the entrance if needed.
How to get there?
There's no public transportation from Kuta to the temple. You must hire a local driver or join a tour group. Many tour groups in Bali offer full- and half-day trips to visit Uluwatu Temple and other nearby attractions
Best time to visit:
Visit the temple is in the morning when it's much less crowded. Busloads of visitors arrive in the afternoon, and most stay for the Kecak Dance performance at dusk.