Pura Tanah Lot
A quick google search of Pura Tanah Lot will yield many superlatives—most sacred, most important, most beautiful—but only one can be considered fact: the Hindu temple of Tanah Lot is (one of) the most famous temple(s) on the island of Bali.
As one of the seven sea temples set around the Balinese coast it is unique because of its offshore setting; the rock’s original name, Tengah Lod, means “land in the sea”.
Pura Tanah Lot is accessible only by low tide, and is said to have poisonous sea snakes living in the rock’s hollows below the ocean’s surface.
An interesting fact about Tanah Lot is that an entire third of it is artificial rock. Centuries of erosion did serious damage to the temple’s rock face, and in 1980 the area around and inside the temple was deemed dangerous to visitors. When Japan loaned 800 billion rupiahs (about 130 million USD) to help with the conservation of various temples and other important locations around Bali, Tanah Lot got the makeover it sorely needed.
Pura Batu Bolong is a small shrine nearby, set upon a dragon’s neck of land reaching out to the sea, which has an archway (Bolong means hollow), and makes it significantly more picturesque, in my opinion.
As local legend goes, Pura Tanah Lot was dreamed into fruition by the renowned 16th century Javanese high priest, Nirartha. After the mass exodus from Java, Nirartha traveled the island of Bali and taught Hinduism. Quite a few of Bali’s puras are credited to Nirartha, several of which are popular tourist destinations today.
When he arrived at the village of Beraban, and beheld its coastal beauty, he decided to rest there overnight. Local fishermen saw his arrival and brought him food and drink.
The next morning, Nirartha spoke with the fishermen and bade them to build a shrine to worship the Bali sea gods. However, he faced opposition from the village chief, who did not want someone to usurp his authority, and had gathered his loyal followers to help dispel Nirartha.
With a show of strength and godliness, the priest lifted up the enormous rock he’d meditated on, set it just offshore, and transformed his sashes into poisonous sea snakes to guard it against evildoers.
The humbled chief then pledged his allegiance, and Pura Tanah Lot was built.