Prayers and offerings to the gods comprise only a small part of typical temple festivals. The primary activities carried on in the temples are ceremonies of sacred dance and music. Writing in Bali: Sekala & Niskala, Fred Eiseman explains the nature and purpose of these ceremonies,
Hindu-Balinese philosophy conceives of the universe, and all within it, as equilibrium between good and bad forces. Neither can be eliminated, but ugly things can occur when nothing is done to maintain balance so that the negative forces get the upper hand. Religious ceremonies maintain the balance. The lovely offerings you see are for the positive forces, but just as much effort and attention is given to their negative counterparts, though this is not apparent to the casual visitor.
Karangasem and The Mother Temple
Karangasem is the home of towering Mt Agung (3142 m), the island’s most sacred and highest volcano, whose dramatic foothills and lava flows provide some of the most spectacular landscapes found anywhere in Bali. High up on Mt Agung’s southern flanks perches the great Mother Temple of Besakih, while to the south and east lie a number of more or less isolated villages that have played a key role in Balinese history. The Mother Temple is the island’s most important of all temples.
The Palace of Karangasem
The traditional Balinese compound has several pavilions and rooms surrounded by pools and connected by walk ways. It is still occupied by members of the royal family and gives a vivid impression of how local royals used to, and continue to live.
Perhaps bali’s most famous landmark, Pura Luhur Uluwatu, is an exquisite monument situated on a headland at the westernmost tip of the Peninsula. The carvings, which decorate the temple, are very well preserved in comparison to many of Bali’s temples, due to the extremely hard, dark gray coral stone used in its construction.
Kintamani, Penelokan, Ulun Danu Batur Temple
From Kintamani we can watch the beauty of mount Batur, the only active volcano in Bali and its lake. In 1917, Mt. Batur violently erupted and destroyed more than 50.000 homes, 2000 temples and killed thousands of people. The lava covered the village of Batur but miraculously stopped right in front of the foot of the temple.
Taman Ayun Temple and the Royal Palace of Mengwi
Taman Ayun which means beautiful garden park is the most complete and beautiful temple in Bali. This large temple is well maintained and surrounded by moat to give the impression of a sanctuary in the middle of a pond, garden with a pond
The Cremation Ceremony
The Cremation Ceremony or The Ngaben is not a sad event, it can even be happy. The cremation procession and associated ceremonies are important rituals in the Hindu rites of passage. The bodies of the deceased will be carried through the streets by thousands of local people on top of a nine-tiered tower called ‘bade’. The procession is accompanied by an elaborately decorated and venerated bull effigy (Lembu), and a mythical dragon-like creature (Naga Banda), with a five meter-long tail.
Ngaben is the principle funeral rite in Bali’s Hindu society, which aims to return the remains of the deceased to the elements from which all living things are created and to release the soul from all ties to this life. We may not be able to witness this inspired ceremony, as they require an enormous amount of time, energy, and money. All of the relatives and friends share the cost but often months, or even years, will be required to gather enough money and to make the mountains of offerings involved.
Ngaben is comprised of many rituals, culminating in the burning of the corpse in an animal-shaped sarcophagus, as well as the burning of the cremation tower (bade) whose sole purpose is to transport the corpse from home to the cremation grounds.