There are two temples in Bali that go by the name of “Gunung Kawi.” The first one, and also the one more frequented by tourists, is the Pura Gunung Kawi located in the area of Tampaksiring. The second one is Gunung Kawi Sebatu which lies in the Sebatu Village in Tegallalang, Gianyar, approximately 30 minutes away from the center of Ubud.
The one we visited, which also happened to be the first temple we set foot on in Bali, was Gunung Kawi Sebatu. Although less popular than its namesake in Tampaksiring, this Hindu water temple is no doubt one of the prettiest temples I’ve seen in Bali. It’s easy to fall in love with it because of the feeling of tranquility that it gives. When we visited, it felt like we were the only ones there! (We weren’t, but thats how it felt like!) If you’re looking for a peaceful temple away from the crowds, this temple is highly recommended. It’s also the perfect temple to visit if you’ve just landed in Bali and are still tired from your flight because of the peaceful and unhurried atmosphere in this complex. It’s also a small and quaint temple, which can be explored in 30 minutes or even less, with not much effort, although descending the steps and climbing back up may be a bit of a struggle for elderly visitors or those who are not very physically fit.
Gunung Kawi Sebatu was built as a homage to the god Vishnu, who is said to be the ruler of water. According to legend, Vishnu gave the locals a source of life in the form of holy water, and as their way of showing gratitude and reverence, the people then erected this temple for him. Water is a prevalent element in the temple, with large ponds and bathing pools being some of the main highlights of the temple. Vishnu is also depicted as a god with four arms, with one hand holding a lotus flower. This is most likely why lotus flowers are also present in the temple.
Like in most temples, visitors need to wear a sarong before entering. Sarongs can be borrowed at the main ticket booth at no extra cost.
One of the characteristic features of this temple is the two bathing pools with ten waterspouts. The water is so clean and clear that you will see all the fishies swimming around… and yes, you can swim with them too! In fact, when we got there, we found some people bathing in the pool. Our guide Made told us that the Balinese people and pilgrims bathe here to purify their bodies and souls from evil spirits.
Because we didn’t have any towels, we were not able to swim, so we had to be content with just touching the water and splashing it on our faces and bodies instead. I guess that was good enough for the meantime!
I wonder if the fish will bite you if you swim with them? Probably not, but I’m telling you, those fish are HUMONGOUS!!! It looks like they’re being nurtured very well by the holy water from the pools!
We wandered around some more and found ourselves in front of this shrine known as the Taman Suci, which lies on top of a large rectangular pool and set against abundant greenery. Holy water just miraculously and naturally continues to flow in this pond. Unfortunately, swimming is not allowed here. I say “unfortunately” because the water looks inviting! You also can’t feed the fish in this area. I asked how the fish are able to survive (and look plump and healthy at that), and I was told that maybe they get their sustenance from the natural springs. Just like magic!
Next, we walked to the main temple grounds which house several shrines and buildings with black thatched roofs.
At the very center of the temple grounds is a sacred Padmasana shrine, which is said to be the most important shrine in the temple because it is the throne of the highest god. It is used by the Hindu people to worship the Almighty God.
All over Bali, whether it’s in the streets, in a restaurant, or in a hotel, you will find these Balinese offerings called “canang sari,” which are offerings made to the Sanghyang Widi Wasa (the “All-in-One” God) as a way of thanksgiving. The canang sari is offered everyday in all households and establishments.
Once a year, a festival called “Purnama Sasih Kasa” is celebrated in Gunung Kawi Sebatu, and the locals decorate the temples and shrines. For those who are not able to join in the festival, they celebrate it in their own homes.
The third and last main part of Gunung Kawi Sebatu is this large and zen lake next to a pavilion. At the center of the lake stands the statue of the goddess Saraswati, which appears to be floating on water. Underneath the statue, big, fat, fish swim happily in the lake.
It’s not the grandest, most architecturally ornate, or most popular temple in Bali, but that’s probably why I like it. It’s small, quiet, relaxing, and delightful, but still mystical and riveting in its own way. Every corner is worth taking a picture of. And because it’s not flocked by too many people, visiting this temple will make you feel like you’re in your own special little world.
Gunung Kawi Sebatu Temple
Address: Jl. Raya Tegallalang, Tegallalang, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia
Opening Hours: 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Admission: IDR 15,000 (Adults) / IDR 7,500 (Children)
How to Get There: Rent a private car with driver / guide. I recommend Galih Bali Tour.
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