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Pura Maospahit "The Oldest Tample" in Bali

Monday, September 1, 2008

Pura Maospahit is one of the most important temples in Denpasar and one of the oldest. There is reliable evidence that it dates from the 15th century.

As the name indicates, the temple was founded by the Majapahit dynasty (originally from Java), whose ancestral temple it still is. In the course of its history it has been frequently altered and embellished, and much of the original furnishings has been lost.

The main entrance to the temple, on Jalan Dr Sutomo, is opened only on days of festival; the normal entrance is on the left-hand side - though even this is not always open. To reach it, go along the narrow lane, Gang III, where with luck you may find an open door. There is another entrance leading directly into the main part of the temple, reached by continuing to the end of Gang III and turning right along the enclosure wall. The temple is in two parts, separated from one another by a high wall. It is entered through a split gate (candi bentar), which is the most striking feature of the temple. On the five pillars of the gate are figures (from left to right) of the god Sangkara (a manifestation of Shiva), Indra (the sky god of ancient India), Yama (god of the dead), Bayu (god of the wind), Garuda (the bird which was Vishnu's mount), the Indian god Kubera (god of wealth) and the sea god Waruna.

To the right of the temple courtyard are a number of buildings which belong not to the Pura Maospahit but to a family temple. At the far end of the courtyard is the Gedong Maospahit, a shrine for the veneration of ancestors. To the left of this is a closed building dedicated to the worship of the ancestors of the Majapahit dynasty of eastern Java.

Particularly notable are three shrines for divinities (pelinggih) decorated with stags' antlers (a prerogative of the ancestors of the Majapahit dynasty)

Pura Maospahit is rarely visited by tourists, and can feel a bit forgotten though a temple attendant is almost sure to emerge to greet you with visitors book, donation bowl and sash. the temple rooftops are visible from Jalan Sutomo, but access to the outer courtyard is via a doorway down the narrow gang that runs along the compounds southern wall. Once inside the compound, look up at the tree to your immediate right, in whose branches you'll see a most unsual kulkul tower, built into its own little treehouse. Beyond this, the massive red brick candi bentar connects the outer and middle courtyards, protected by two huge figures representing a giant and a garuda.
Through the
towering, impressively chunky and unadorned padu raksa gateway, the inner courtyard is packed with a dozen or more thatched brick shrines. The central, and most important, structure here is the squat red brick candi raras Maospahit, guarded by two ancient terracotta figurines. It's thought that both this shrine and the almost identical one that stands a short distance to the north were constructed in honour of the Majapahit ancestors of the Balinese people.

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