An Introduction to Bali: Religion, Volcanoes and Gamelan

With my long-overdue return to Bali in April (update, now we’ve been a load of times) I have been flicking through old photos from my last visit back in April 2006. I know Bali has its critics but fortunately my visit avoided the ugly tourism of Kuta and the island’s other notorious tourist spots. I fell in love with rural Ubud and the lesser-known beaches of the island. Local cultures seduced me. I was enchanted by religion, mythology, colours and gamelan. Just one experience during my 2006 visit was Odalan at Batur Temple (Pura Ulun Danu Batur). I am now apprehensive on my return to Bali doubting the same magic as before. Like an adult’s return to Disneyland. In 2006 I was barely on the bottom rung of my travel career.

Odalan at Batur Temple (Pura Ulun Danu Batur)

Easily one of my most inspiring travel experiences. The ceremony happened on the 12th of April 2006, the day of the Batur Temple’s anniversary (Odalan) or as I was told at the time the Temple’s Birthday. This visit was unplanned only added to our itinerary by our driver. At the time we were at a nearby viewpoint for Mount Batur. After a 15-minute drive, we arrive to simply awe-inspiring scenes.

Procession at Ulun Danu Batur Temple

Under the backdrop of an active volcano (Mount Batur) thousands of devout Hindu worshippers pace back and forth on the hill which fronts Ulun Danu Batur Temple. Many carry flags and offerings for the temple God. The numbers of people knock me back a bit. A never-ending stream of colourful locals. The procession on the outside lasts around an hour before entering the temple grounds. I was the only white face to be seen sticking out like a potato in a rice bowl.

Inside Ulun Danu Batur Temple Grounds

Appropriate dress is necessary to enter the temple. I buy mine at the temple gates including a horrendous tie-dye sarong and snazzy traditional headdress (pictured above). Streams of locals squeeze in through every entrance to the temple. The temple’s name “Ulun Danu” translates as “Head of the Lake” and inside local Hindus bring offerings to appease Dewi Danu (the Water Goddess) for regulating water. Other ceremonies and rituals take place on temple grounds, few I know of. To this day I can hear the squeal of a strung-up pig as it is carried past to have its throat slit.

Batur Temple Ceremony, where and when?

The ceremony was Ulun Danu Batur Temple’s anniversary (Odalan). It happens every 210 days based on the lunar calendar. Possibly called Mapepada Agung or Ngusaba ke Dasa? The ceremony remains relatively untouched. Not much info on Google other than the same, or slightly, edited copy/paste webjunk e.g. “Huge ceremony, called Ngusaba ke Dasa, is held here every year”.

Here is a sketchy, grainy video which I captured at the time:

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