The mist that carpeted the surrounding mountains crept into the lake, and the moisture laden breeze chilled our bones. The white sky reflected on the rippled water surface that became the canvas on which stood the lady of the lake. Soon, it started drizzling, I opened my travel umbrella that had a phrase on it. It said,” I love Scotland”. It was my Excalibur and we were in Avalon!
Pura Ulun Danu or the Temple of Goddess Danu stood on the western shores of the Lake Bratan. It was built 1500 metres above sea level on Beddugul plateau in the 16th century by King of Mengwi, I Gusti Agung Putu. However, there were records of a shrine older than the current one at the same site. The Temple complex consisted of four temple structures. Three of them dedicated to the Hindu trinity, Brahma – the creator, Vishnu – the administrator, and Shiva – the destroyer. And the fourth one was dedicated to fertility Goddess Danu. Being built on an island, the last temple seemed afloat on water. In Balinese, Danu meant lake. In Rig Vega, Danu was the goddess of Dark waters and the mother of Demons or Danavas. Some scholars believe that the pro-Aryan deity inspired the name of the European river Danube.
Lake Bratan was a caldera lake and was created by the collapse of the empty magma chamber of Mount Bratan. The lake supplied water for the subak irrigation, hence rice production. (Read about Subak here- https://biswadarshan.com/2015/01/05/bali-a-obsession-with-water/ ). As per Balinese philosophy of Rwa Bhineda, existence based on balanced opposites, Pura Besaikh was masculine and Pura Batur was feminine.
Beside the main temple complex was a Buddhist stupa which was still used for prayers. A few minor shrines, including venerated ogre statues, dotted the surroundings. In Bali, the boundaries between Animism, Buddhism, and Hinduism were clearly blurred.
We came across a group of tourists taking pictures with their smart tablets, which seemed impermeable to the trickling water. Communion with inner-self can wait, social media friends cannot!
“Excuse me” approached some girls, “Can we have a picture with you?” The question was posed to my friend, Shannon, who had realised by then that being white could be a reason for a celebrity status in many parts of Asia.
A pier lay towards the southern fringe of the shrines. It docked a group of Jukung or traditional Balinese boats . Their colours were in contrast to the bleached lake surroundings; just like its usage for fun rides was to any communion with the divine. Thank God, it was not a week-end!
By late afternoon, fog had swallowed the entire landscape. The rain intensified, and I jolted towards the parking lot in search of our driver. It was time to leave…
Pura Ulan Danu was a symbol of prosperity and has captured people’s imagination. No wonder, she was etched on the 50,000 Indonesian Rupiah note; after all, the lady of the lake was as benevolent as anyone wanted her to be.