Bali's Mother Temple of Pura Besakih sits high on the slopes of Bali's Mount Agung. On a mountain viewed by the Balinese as the "belly-button" of the universe, Besakih is indisputably Bali's most sacred temples, dating its history back to the 14th century.
In fact a complex of twenty-two temples set on parallel mountain ridges, the distinctive tiered meru roofs of the tens of lesser temples lead the eyes to the main structure or Pura Penataran Agung which, in turn, immediately draws the mind and the eyes to the nearby sacred caldera of Mt. Agung.
While Besakih remains a major tourist and spiritual destination on the island of Bali, a Karangasem Regency religious leader recently expressed to Bisnis Bali his view that all parties involved with the sacred temple, both religious devotees and tourist visitors, need to achieve a shared view of the site and the important role it plays in the island's cultural and religious life. I Wayan Arthadipa, the Chairman of the Majelis Madya Desa Pakraman (MMDP) for Karangasem, said that Besakih's sacred status in Balinese society tends to mute the many deficiencies surrounding the daily life of Bali's Mother Temple. Branding it as unwise to remain silent while the image and reputation of the Temple suffers, he urged local leaders and those charged with safeguarding the Temple to have the courage to take the steps necessary to restore Besakih's spiritual and moral standing. Driving home his point, he said that guides leading people through the complex must always respect the sacred nature of the Temple, obey all rules already in place and not defraud or coerce those visiting the site.
He also said that the conditions prevailing inside the Temple are no less important, pointing to criticisms that are often heard from devotees regarding questionable fees demanded for mandatory offerings. Arthadipa called for transparency in how the funds flowing in from various source to Besakih are handled. "Besakih has be managed well, be organized, and handled in a neat and professional manner," he said. To do this, he added, the regency of Karangasem and the provincial government must both be involved in order to oversee the complex issues that involve Bali main religious site.
In response, the coordinator of the management and supervision of Besakih (KPPKSB), Drs. I Wayan Ardika, told the press that he accepts the legal instructions issued by the Regent of Karangasem and he will no longer tolerate those committing acts that bring discredit to the image of Besakih. Coordinating the revamp of the Temples image, Ardika has issued warnings to guides, traders, parking attendants and the local people living near Besakih to follow all the rules.
As regards efforts to enforce rules of behavior inside the Temple and calling for more transparency in how funds are managed, Ardika is seeking the support of young Hindu intellectuals in rebuilding Besakih's tarnished image.
On an encouraging note, Ardika noted that the number of visitors at the Temple is on the increase after declining for a period.
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