The ancient connection between India and South East Asia is visible in art, music, culinary delights and most importantly in religion. The Ramayana and Mahabharata, the Hindu epics, are treasured by millions of faithful and form an intrinsic part of many cultures.
Lord Hanuman, the monkey god in the Ramayana is revered in Balinese Hinduism. Perhaps this is why the Old Pura Dalam Agung Pandantegal Shiva temple in the sacred monkey forest in Ubud (Mandala Suci Wenara Wana) is under his guardianship. The spiritual gendarmes of this temple are the resident monkeys.
The forest became a tourist attraction in the 1930s at a time when there were no monkeys. In the 1970s four dozen monkeys (macaque) were introduced. Since then the simian population has grown to in excess of 600.
The Shiva lingam in the Old Pura is believed to have been brought from Java. The materials used matches the lingam at the Campuhan temple, which, it is held was the first base camp of Hindu followers.
Next to this temple are two other temples – Prajapati Temple dedicated to Goddess Durga and Beji Temple dedicated to Goddess Ganga. The spring water at this temple is considered holy by devotees. They cleanse themselves with this water prior to praying at the temples.
Those forbidden from entering the temples are women who are menstruating and anyone with a wound. This is to prevent blood spilling on the temple grounds. It is believed that blood is food for ghosts.
This forest is revered and no one is permitted to collect leaves, bark, trim or cut trees without seeking the temples’ permission by praying, presenting offerings and seeking the guidance of the resident Pemangku (priest).
The wood of the Majegan is used solely in the construction of shrines.
Barongs and Rangdas are made from the Pule Bandak. It is said that this wood houses the very soul of the forest and hence the masks, which are used only inside the temple, have a powerful spiritual aura. Pule Bandak is not cut down but only part of the tree’s wood is utilised.
The leaves of the Beregin tree are used in cremation ceremonies.
There are more than a hundred species of trees. But the most significant are the banyan and peepal trees with their fruits (figs) and aerial roots. They make a stunning impression on first time visitors to the forest by their sheer size and elegance.
It is advised to strictly adhere to the guide’s directions to prevent any unpleasant encounters with grumpy old simians, young ones and mothers carrying their beautiful offspring as they demand handouts. The monkeys won’t approach a visitor if one is not carrying food.
This is but one breath taking stop on an enchanted WakaLandCruise day trip to Kintamani to discover the many cultural gems on the island of Bali.