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Situated around four kilometers to the east of the heart of Ubud, the regal Pura Penataran Sasih is a Hindu place of worship that was once the state temple of the Pejeng kingdom. The glorious religious site has been serving as one of the most significant places of worship for several decades. Devotees from places near and far come to this place to offer their prayers throughout the year. In addition to it, the temple draws in people from all over the world with its rich history as well as its fascinating ensemble. However, it is most lively during the ninth month of the Balinese calendar, when a number of festivals are held.
The holy sanctuary was founded in as early as 1266 AD and is also popularly known as the Moon Temple owing to the colossal bronze drum that adorns the inner courtyard of the temple. Locally referred to as the Nekara, this drum is said to come from the prehistoric era, and has acquired the name ‘Bulan Pejeng’, which translates to the ‘moon that falls to the earth’. This is the reason why the Pura Penataran Sasih is also known as the Bulan Pejeng or Bulan Temple.
In fact, the word ‘sasih’ may be literally translated to ‘moon’ in Indonesian, which only gives the name of the temple a clearer connection to its most dominant feature, that is the drum with an appearance of the moon. Shaped like an hourglass, the drum is around a hundred and eighty-six centimeters long and a hundred and sixty centimeters in diameter.
Seated in a quaint little village called Pejeng, the dignified Pura Penataran Sasih is devoted to the Hindu deity Lord Ganesha, whose tall statue is housed in the middle sanctum of the temple. Apart from the main idol, the Pura Penataran Sasih is also home to antique stone figures of the elephant, also referred to as the Gajah, Siwa, as well as other deities. At the entrance of the temple is a wonderful feature of the traditional Balinese architecture – the sliced gate with intricately carved details.
Right in front of the main entrance, a modern chronogram is displayed which showcases the year of the foundation of the temple. A vast collection of sculptures that were brought in from different parts of the island and belonged to the time period between the tenth and twelfth centuries adorn the sprawling courtyards of the site.
The main attraction of the temple is the gigantic drum made of bronze since it tells the tale of one of the most famous Balinese mythologies. As per the legend, there were thirteen moons in Bali in earlier times. The drum that resides in the temple at present descended to the earth in the form of a fallen moon.
It landed on top of a coconut tree and began to shine in such a vibrant manner that it caused a hindrance to a group of thieves who were out in the dark to go about their unlawful deeds. When one of the thieves began to try and put out the bright light by urinating on it, the huge celestial body exploded and dropped down to the earth by taking the form of a drum.
As a result of the rough fall, the drum acquired a sizable crack across its base. It is yet to confirm if the ornate drum was imported to Bali or made by the locals. The intricate decoration on the drum follows a geometric pattern and is believed to bear a close resemblance to the traditional art forms of places such as Vietnam as well as West Papua. Another symbolic significance of the drum is that it is believed to act as a means to plead for rain.