As one of Bali’s nine directional temples, Uluwatu Temple (or Pura Luhur Uluwatu) was built and founded for the primary purpose of shooing away evil spirits from the island. It is one of the only three directional temples that are included in most package tours in Bali. Located high on top of a cliff, Uluwatu Temple is believed to house Bhatara Rudra, the Balinese god of the elements and cosmic forces. Uluwatu Temple is found 250 feet above the Indian Ocean at the southern end of Bali. Being set on top of a black coral rock, this architectural wonder of a temple is one of the oldest temples in the island. It is beautifully designed and blessed with a spectacular view of the ocean. Uluwatu Temple is one of the islands many ascension temples (meaning they are set on a high place), which include Tanah Lot Temple, the Bat Cave Temple, and Goa Lawah. All these ascension temples (or Pura Luhur) are built in auspicious locations overlooking a large body of water.
Ancient Pura Uluwatu was founded by the Javanese Hindu priest, Empu Kuturan in the 10th century. He also founded a nearby shrine and other religious structures along the same coast. In the 15th century, Dhang Hyang Dwijendra, a well known figure in Balinese Hindu history as a greatly revered pilgrim priest, decided to make Uluwatu Temple his final abode on earth. This priest is also popular for having established the Hindu-Dharma religion’s present form. He is also credited for having designed many major temples all over Bali. According to legends and historical records, while meditating in Pura Uluwatu, the priest Dwijendra achieved oneness with the godhead and blazed in a flashing light. This ecstatic state is called “moksa”.
Tourists are allowed to enter the temple as long as they dress and behave politely and reverently. They will be asked to put on traditional sarong in order to cover the shoulders and knees. Tourists and guests are especially dumbfounded to see the main pagoda’s inner sanctum, a limestone statue of Dwijendra surveying the vast Indian Ocean, and a shrine representing the boat on which Dwijendra traveled from the island of Java to this Bali coast.
In addition to this magnificent temple, the Ulu Watu area is also popular for its beach. Surfers from Indonesia and Asia come here to enjoy the Uluwatu waves. Only experienced surfers, however, may enjoy themselves here since the waters are rough. Other attractions are the surrounding restaurants, spectacular sunsets, full-moon parties, and the funny monkeys that live within and around the temple and on the cliff. Visitors get a kick out of feeding them with bananas and peanuts.
Uluwatu Temple is well maintained and its festivities are orderly, thanks to the royal house of Puri Agung Jero Kuta from Denpasar. Members of this clan are the appointed temple custodians. Over the years, noblemen from this family make sure that the full moon festivals run efficiently every seven months. The custodians are assisted by faithful devotees (called “pengayah”) and the village priests.