Uluwatu Temple, or Pura Luhur Uluwatu, one of six key temples believed to be Bali’s spiritual pillars, is renowned for its magnificent location, perched on top of a steep cliff approximately 70 metres above sea level. This temple also shares the splendid sunset backdrops as that of Tanah Lot Temple, another important sea temple located in the island’s western shores.
Pura Luhur Uluwatu is definitely one of the top places on the island to go to for sunset delights, with direct views overlooking the beautiful Indian Ocean and daily Kecak dance performances. Balinese architecture, traditionally-designed gateways, and ancient sculptures add to Uluwatu Temple’s appeal.
Without a doubt, what makes Uluwatu Temple spectacular is its cliff-top setting at the edge of a plateau 250 feet above the waves of the Indian Ocean. ‘Ulu’ means the ‘top’ or the ‘tip’ and ‘watu’ means a ‘stone’ or a ‘rock’ in Balinese. Several archaeological remains found here prove the temple to be of megalithic origin, dating back to around the 10th century. There are two entrances to Uluwatu Temple, from the south and the north.
A small forest lies at the front and hundreds of monkeys dwell here. They are believed to guard the temple from bad influences. The serpentine pathway to the temple is fortified by concrete walls on the cliff side. It takes about an hour to get from one end to another as there are several fenced points along the way to stop. The views from the bottom of the water surging up against rocks and the ocean horizon are remarkable. The Balinese Hindus believe that the three divine powers of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva become one here. That belief results in making Uluwatu Temple a place of worship of Siva Rudra, the Balinese Hindu deity of all elements and aspects of life in the universe. Pura Uluwatu is also dedicated to protect Bali from evil sea spirits.
Inscriptions mention that Uluwatu Temple was instigated by Mpu Kunturan, a Majapahit monk who also participated in establishing several other important temples in Bali such as Pura Sakenan in Denpasar, about 1,000 years ago. A holy priest from eastern Java, Dhang Hyang Dwijendra, then chose Uluwatu Temple to be his spiritual journey’s final worshiping place. Balinese Hindu devotees believe that he reached the highest spiritual point of oneness with deities by a strike of lightning and completely disappeared.
Legend, however, says that Dhang Hyang Dwijendra (also frequently referred to by name as Danghyang Nirartha) was the architect of Uluwatu Temple and several other temples in Bali, Lombok, as well as Sumbawa. Until 1983, Pura Uluwatu was hardly accessible and a lightning strike in 1999 set some parts of the temple on fire. The temple has had some restorations since it was first built. Highlights and Features Behind the main shrine in one of the courtyards of Uluwatu Temple lies a Brahmin statue facing the Indian Ocean, considered as a representation of Dhang Hyang Dwijendra. The two entrances to the temple area are split gates with leaves and flowers carvings.
In front of each of them are a couple of sculptures shaped like a human body with an elephant head. A heritage of the 10th century is the one-piece winged stone gate to the inside courtyard of Pura Uluwatu. Winged gates are not commonly found on the island. An addition to Pura Uluwatu in the 16th century is Pura Dalem Jurit. There are three statues in it, one of them is of Brahma. There are two stone troughs in the temple area. If both of them are joined, they create a sarchopagus (Megalithic coffin). Uluwatu Beach, below the cliff, is one of Bali’s best internationally-known surfing spots.