Taman Budaya or Bali Art Centre is a prime example of how traditional art forms should to be preserved. Built in traditional Balinese architecture this is a centre of learning and also a centre of excellent performances. It motivates young Balinese people to learn all the forms of traditional Balinese performing arts. Bali Art Center grooms young ones in traditional Balinese arts- dance, theatre, music, painting and lot more.
A beautiful complex run by public money is a very sincere attempt to preserve the traditional forms of art. Interestingly, all these classes are completely free of cost for the children. Such art centres encourage them to learn and perform and thus keep the traditional art forms alive by transferring them to the next generation… A way to learn for all such societies!
In Islamic Indonesia the Hindu majority Bali is fascinating example of co-existence of cultures. Equally fascinating are the attempts to preserve art and dedication among the young ones to learn.
It is not yet five years old, as it was opened only in September 2013, but it certainly leaves tourists coming to Bali in an awe. Almost 13 km in length stretching across the Gulf of Benoa, the Bali Mandara sea link is often referred to as pride of Indonesia. This beautiful sea link runs over sea and some part of it through protected mangrove forests, making it a beautiful experience to drive. It gives wonderful views from the road and the sea as well! It is claimed to be one of the “most beautiful” road stretches in Indonesia. The name Mandara is an acronym for Indonesian words — maju (move forward), aman (safe), damai (peaceful) and sejahtera (prosperous).
Bali Mandara Toll Road or Nusa Dua-Ngurah Rai-Benoa Toll Road is a toll road carried by a bridge 12.7 km in length. This highway connects the city of Denpasar and South Kuta, Badung Regency, Nusa Dua and Ngurah Rai International Airport, thus providing additional link to northern and southern parts of Bali. The reason behind construction of Bali Mandara Toll Road would have been to prevent traffic jams on the Ngurah Rai By Pass Road, but slowly it has also become an attraction of sort. This toll road was officially opened on 23 September 2013 by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Whole project took just 14 months to be completed. It was an amazing feat, considering that there was no sort of foreign help involved at any stage.
Numerous academics, scholars and environmentalists had voiced serious concerns over the construction of the sea link, which could have deviated from its approved environmental impact analysis and perhaps dangerously affect both the mangroves and surrounding marine habitat. Local fishermen and nearby fishing villages also no longer have access to their previous fishing grounds. Indonesian authorities however claim that this infrastructure masterpiece was built with environmentally friendly and advanced technology. Undoubtedly, the views from the toll road are breathtaking. Even the local norms and traditions were respected during the construction. You can see the water below the road and green mangrove forests all over the place. To minimise the impact of construction almost 16,000 pieces of mangrove trees were planted after the construction of link was completed.
The road runs over the sea and was built using 33,835 concrete columns, some of them through an area of previously pristine mangrove forest. The road has a separate lane for motorcycles on both the sides, thus providing separate drive ways for two wheelers and four wheelers and making it more safe. The length of Bali Mandara Road is equal to Penang Bridge in Malaysia which too is 12.7 kilometres in length.
The road runs through a fragile environment and rough seas. Hence, there are many checks and controls involved. There are strict speed limits and all activities are thoroughly monitored. There is exhaustive system of CCTVs and also a wind monitor to keep measuring the wind sped. Anemometer are installed at every toll gate (Nusa Dua, Ngurah Rai, and Benoa). If the wind speed reach 40 kph or more than the movement on this road is controlled or stopped temporarily.
Travel with me to this Bali Mandara sea link through this video on my YouTube channel by clicking on the thumbnail below-
So next time you visit Bali, get a driving experience on this Bali Mandara toll road. It will certainly be worth.
Have you driven on this amazing Bali Mandara Road? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments section below.
Having talked about Borobudur Temple in Indonesia earlier, Prambanan temple can’t be left far behind. We have seen some sunset photos of the Prambanan Temple earlier, its now time to talk in some detail about it. Prambanan temple is in central Java and close to city of Yogyakarta. It is largest hindu temple in Indonesia located in area which is termed as Prambanan plains. It is also one of the biggest in South East Asia.
Prambanan temple is dedicated to tridev- Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiva). There are six main temples- Shiva in the centre, Brahma to his right and Vishnu to his left. And right opposite to temples of these three deities are the three temples of their respective vahanas- Nandi in front of Shiva, Garuda in front of Vishnu and Hamsa (swan) in front of Brahma. All temples are although built in typical hindu architecture, but there are few signs of fusion with Java architecture. For its cultural and architectural importance this temple compound is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The temple was built in 9th century and in that context it predates many of India’s most famous temples. In this area, it was the period of tussle between Hindu and Buddhist dynasties. And it is often said that Prambanan was an hindu answer to Buddhist Borobudur. But both temples were built in almost same time period and are very close to each other. Nevertheless, fact is that Prambanan plains are home to classical cultures of Hindu and Buddhism periods. A number of inscriptions, statues, temples as well as ruins of royal residences from that classical period of Java are dotted in the plain.
The inscriptions say that there were originally 240 temples in the complex built in a concentric Mandala layout. Besides those six main temples there were 2 Apit temples on north and south ends of the row between the tridev and their vahana temples, 4 Kelir temples in four directions facing right the four main gates of inner zones and 4 Patok temples on four corners of inner zone. These temples completed the inner zone and then there were 224 temples in four concentric square rows in outer zones. But the abandonment, neglect, weathering and catastrophes like quakes and volcanic eruptions damaged almost whole of the complex. They were rediscovered first by Britishers during their very short occupation of the are and then by Dutch. Later Indonesian government after country’s independence under Sukarno took the massive reconstruction exercise.
But it was too damaged to reconstruct it completely. Hence only the six of the main temples and a couple of other temples were reconstructed. Most of the 224 temples in the outer zones can be seen only by there foundations. No upper structure is there. But even in what was reconstructed, this is a glorious temple and a precious piece of world heritage.
Temple gets a steady stream of visitors from Indonesia as well as world over. There number is more than a million every year.
In Prambanan complex a Shiva temple at the centre is of great significance as it denotes the patronage to Shaivism or shaivite hinduism by local hindu rulers. Shiva temple is also the biggest and it has three smaller temples inside- Agastya rishi in south, Ganesha in the west and Durga in the north. Vishnu and Brahma temples don’t have any other temples inside.
Among the vahana temples, only Nandi temple has a statue. But statues of Garuda and the Hamsa (swan) are missing. There are many narrative panels, statues on the outer walls, corner stones depicting many hindu mythologies.
The most significant part of the temple is the relief panels inside the temples. These narrative bas-reliefs were carved on the walls of the corridors around the temples sanctorum (pradakshina path). Interestingly reliefs on the Shiva temple are from Ramayana while those on the Vishnu temple are from Krishnayana (Bhagavata Purana). A look at some of the reliefs.
The hindu stories in reliefs at temples from 9th century is amazing. It is rare to find anything like that even in India.
Sunset at Prambanan
A glorious complex
Overall, this temple has been a sort of revelation for us during our trip.
We visited Borobudur temple in the third leg of our Indonesia trip, when we were stationed at Yogyakarta. Yogyakarta is the biggest city close to this UNESCO world heritage site. Borobudur at Magelang in Central Java province of Indonesia is a Mahayana Buddhist Temple built in 8th and 9th centuries. It has been recorded as the largest Buddhist Temple in the world. But not just that… it is not just because of its size. It is considered to be one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world and for that matter, among the greatest monuments in the world.
Huge campus around the temple
Complex is huge and very artistically and geometrically built. It wasn’t possible for us to see it from the top, but this aerial image (below) taken from internet gives an idea of what this structure is like. In the image below you can see a volcano in the background. This complex is surrounded by two twin volcanoes. Surrounding area is highly fertile and lush green. The temple itself is said to be made of volcanic rocks, found in the are in abundance. Ironically the temple itself lay hidden for centuries under layers of volcanic ash and jungle growth and that kept it away from the human eyes, until it was rediscovered first under Britishers and then under Dutch between 1814-1835. Restoration of the temple although started in early last century but major restoration work was undertaken only by the Islamic Indonesian government in seventies. That finally led to its nomination as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1991 “to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius.”
The history of the region during the time of its original construction has been very confusing. The Buddhist and the Hindu kingdoms have been constantly fighting for the supremacy of the region. The Hindu Prambanan temple, not too far away from Borobudur were also constructed almost during the same time period. Well, a lot is there about it on the internet. No point in recollecting that all.
The whole temple structure was built in nine stacked platforms in three tiers. It has a pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces, then there is a trunk of a cone with three circular platforms and on the top is a monumental stupa. Practically people go upto eighth level. Ninth one is the position when one attains the nirvana. The whole structure is based on Buddhist philosophy. Among the three tiers are- Kamadhatu, Rupadhatu and Arupadhatu. It is said that the base is the Kamadhatu, while five platforms above it are Rupadhatu and the three circular platforms are Arupadhatu. Finally is the nirvana. Borobudur is still used for pilgrimage. Every year Buddhists celebrate Vesak here.
A worker cleaning the outer structure
one of the 100 spouts
The temple is decorated with 2672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. Borobudur is said to have the largest and most complete ensemble of Buddhist reliefs in the world. The five square platforms (Rupadhatu) have corridors with reliefs on both the sides. These relief panels describe life of Buddha and various incidents related to his life, previous life, his enlightenment and his teachings and Jataka tales. Religious people will go left and make a round of that platform to make a ‘parikrama’ and then they will repeat it at every level. The Buddha statues in niches these five square platforms are facing in four directions- North, South, East and West. And mudras (posture) of these statues are different in all four directions. For a keen traveller, interested in history, religious history and architecture, it will take a huge time to visit the complex and understand all these reliefs panels, even a day would be not enough. Interestingly, reliefs panels at the base of the temple have all been covered (and many removed). Only one relief panel at the base is open for the public to see. Rest all are covered by foot encasement from public eyes, presumably to protect the base. The 160 hidden panels of the base depicted scenes from the daily life, a full panorama of samsara. This was the base that is termed as Kamavibhangga (Kamadhatu)!
Only relief visible on the base of the temple
Abhaya mudra towards the north
Dhyana mudra towards the west
Bhumisparsa mudra towards the east
The top dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues on three circular levels (Arupadhatu). Each statue is seated inside a perforated stupa- 32 on first, then 24 and finally 16. Hence it is not possible to see these statues inside. But to make it possible for visitors to have a look at the statue, one of the stupa has been left uncovered. The mudra of Buddha statue on this level is different from what is at Rupadhatu level.
The monument guides pilgrims through extensive system of stairways and corridors. There is a stairway on the centre of the each side to take visitors till the top. There are arched gates at every level. Stairs are bit narrow and steep. Not so easy for those who get tired easily. But then there are railings to help those in need of support. Climbing up the stairs, going around the corridors at the every level, needs a lot of time and energy. But it is worth every step.
For its historical, religious, heritage and architectural value, this place gets a healthy number of tourists all the year round. It is said that Borobudur is Indonesia’s single most visited tourist attraction. As a tourist destination of high heritage value Borobudur ranks itself in line of Bagan in Myanmar and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Even locals visit this place in large numbers. We found many young Indonesian muslim girls enjoying the complex, completing their architectural projects, interviewing tourists or simply excitingly getting themselves photographed with tourists. It was a very pleasant sight indeed.
Yogyakarta is the nearest city to touch base for Borobudur. Yogyakarta is well connected by road, train and air network. There is only one hotel close to temple- very beautiful Manohara centre of Borobudur Study. There are also many options of homestay in surrounding villages. People will often like to stay close to the temple during the time of sunrise and sunset. This area is also promoted for village tourism.