Just mere kilometers away from the erupting Mount Agung, Bali’s biggest and holiest temple, Besakih, remains open to the public.
At about five to six kilometers from the volcano’s crater, the Hindu temple complex sits at what is considered safely outside of Agung’s danger zone—set currently at a radius of four kilometers from the crater by Indonesia’s volcanology center.
Located in Karangasem in eastern Bali, the volcano is removed from the most developed parts of Bali and is about 75 kilometers from the tourist hub of Kuta.
“Since eruptions on Monday, we have not closed the temple, even since erupting last month, we still are serving tourists and people coming to pray,” Wayan Ngawit, Besakih manger of operations, said on Thursday, as quoted by Detik.
Known as the Mother Temple of Bali, Besakih is not only an important point of interest for tourists, but also holds a deep significance for Balinese as a holy place of worship.
“The government has not dared to declare the Besakih area closed because the situation and conditions are uncertain. Besakih Temple is a very important place for the Hindu community,” said Bali Deputy Governor, Ketut Sudikerta, who also serves as regional chairman of the regional management agency of Besakih.
If anything, the volcano’s ash-spewing activity has seemed to attract some foreign tourists, curious to view eruptions from the vantage point of Bali’s Mother Temple.
“It got interesting during the eruption, we had time to take pictures with the temple in the background, while behind the temple there was Mount Agung erupting,” Detik quoted a French tourist, Jon Piere, as saying.
The same sentiment was expressed by Hendra Suhendra, an Indonesian tourist traveling to Bali from West Java with four other comrades. The group picked Besakih as an outing so they could capture the eruption on camera.
“Last year, I was not able to come here. In November, there was an eruption, so I cancelled. But yes, here it is today,” Suhendra said.
After several months of near silence, Mount Agung erupted one week ago, which has triggered the evacuation of nearly 3,000 local villagers.
During Agung’s last eruption in 1963, which killed around 1,600 people, lava flows narrowly missed Besakih, which many saw as an indication of the temple’s holiness.