Bangli

Contents
1 Introduction
2 Background
3 Sights
4 Around Bangli

Bangli, the former capital of a mountain principality, is a peaceful, rather beautiful town, well maintained and spread out. Set in a rich farming area in the hills, there is much to enjoy about the surrounding scenery, especially the captivating views of the volcanic area to the north including Gunung Agung and Gunung Batur. Both the town itself and the countryside around afford many opportunities for pleasant walks. The area claims to have the best climate on Bali and the air is cooler than on the coast. Despite these attractions, Bangli is not on the main tourist routes and is all the more charming for that.

Background

Balinese believe that Bangli is the haunt of
leyaks
, witches who practice black magic. In Bali, misfortune or illness is frequently attributed to
leyaks
, who often intervene on behalf of an enemy. In order to overcome this the Balinese visit a
balian
, a shaman or healer, who often has knowledge of the occult. As a result of the presence of
leyak
in the area, Bangli has a reputation for the quality of its
balian
, with supplicants arriving from all over the island, dressed in their ceremonial dress and bearing elaborate offerings. The people of Bangli are also the butt of jokes throughout Bali, as Bangli is the site of the island's only mental hospital, built by the Dutch.

Sights

There is a
market
every three days in the centre of town. Locally grown crops include cloves, coffee, tobacco, vanilla, citrus fruit, rice, cabbages, corn and sweet potatoes; some of which are exported. Bangli lies close to the dividing line between wet-rice and dry-rice cultivation.

Most people come to Bangli to visit the
Pura Kehen
, one of Bali's more impressive temples and one of the most beautiful, set on a wooded hillside about 2 km to the north of the town centre. The Pura was probably founded in the 13th century. There is some dispute over the true origin of the temple, because inscriptions within the compound have been dated to the ninth century. It is the second largest on Bali and the state temple of Bangli regency. Elephants flank the imposing entrance, leading up to three terraced courtyards, through finely carved and ornamented gateways decorated with myriad demons. The lower courtyard is dominated by a wonderful 400-year-old
waringin
tree (
Ficus benjamina
), with a monk's cell built high up in the branches. It is here that performances are held to honour the gods. The middle courtyard houses the offertory shrines, while the top courtyard contains an 11-tiered
meru
with a carved wood and stone base. The elaborate woodwork here is being beautifully restored and repainted by craftsmen. In the wall below, guides will point out the old Chinese plates cemented into it. Curiously, some of these depict rural England, with a watermill and mail coach drawn by four horses. Every three years in November (Rabu Kliwon Shinta in the Balinese calendar), at the time of the full moon (purnama), a major ceremony, Ngusabha, is held at the temple.

The
Sasana Budaya Arts Centre
stages performances of traditional and modern drama, music and dance, as well as art and cultural exhibitions. It is one of the largest cultural centres on Bali, located about 100 m from the Pura Kehen. Ask at the tourist office for information on performances. Bangli is particularly noted for its dance performances. Bangli also has one of the largest
gamelan
orchestras on Bali, captured from the ruler of Semarapura by the Dutch, who gave it to Bangli.

In the centre of town is the
royal palace
, which houses eight branches of the former royal family. Built about 150 years ago and largely restored by the present descendants, the most important section is the Puri Denpasar where the last ruler of Bangli lived until his death almost 40 years ago. The temple of the royal ancestors is situated on the northwest side, diagonally opposite the
Artha Sastra Inn
; important ceremonies are still held here.

There is an impressive
Bale Kulkul
in the centre of town, three storeys high and supported on columns made of coconut palm wood; it is about 100 years old. There are in fact two
kulkuls
,
kulkul lanang
which is male, and
kulkul wadon
which is female. In times past the
kulkul
was sounded to summon the people, or act as an alarm warning of impending danger. The people of Bangli consider these
kulkul
to be sacred, and they are used during important temple festivals.

At the other end of town, the
Pura Dalem Penjungekan
(temple of the dead) is also worth a visit. The stone reliefs vividly depict the fate of sinners as they suffer in hell; hanging suspended with flames licking at their feet, being castrated, at the mercy of
knife-wielding demons, being impaled or having their heads split open. The carvings are based on the story of Bima on his journey to rescue the souls of his parents from hell. The destructive 'Rangda' features extensively. In the centre there is a new shrine depicting tales of Siwa, Durga and Ganesh. The temple is in a parkland setting with possibilities for walks.

Around Bangli

There are a number of pleasant places to visit, including
Bukit Demulih
, at an altitude of about 300 m. This small, pretty village has some well-carved temples, and a
kulkul
tower by the
bale banjar
. From here the villagers will show you the track up the hill, at the top of which is a small temple; on the way you pass a sacred waterfall. If you walk along the ridge you will come to other temples and fine views over the whole of south Bali.

A pleasant walk east of Bangli leads to
Sibembunut
, and
Bukit Jati
, near Guliang about 2 km south of Bunutin, is another hill to climb for splendid views and scenic walks.

Sidan
, just north of the main Gianyar to Semarapura road, 10 km south of Bangli, is notable for its
Pura Dalem
, which has some of the most vivid, spine- chilling depictions of the torture and punishment that awaits wrong-doers in hell. The carvings show people having their heads squashed, boiled or merely chopped off, and the wicked and evil widow Rangda dismembering and squashing babies.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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