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Meru: Magnum Opus of Balinese Shrine  

by on Thursday, 17 May 2007No Comment | 6,082 views

Meru, an elaborate multi-tiered temple structure with thatched roof of sugar palm fiber called duk, is surely a prima ballerina of many temple courtyards. Towering majestically among other shrine, meru is a symbol of the temple prestige. A temple with an eleven-tiered meru is surely has more prestige than just a temple with a five-tiered Meru.

The shrines symbolize the world mountain, Gunung Maha Meru, and has one to eleven tiers or, as they are called, tumpang, or “levels.” There must always be an odd number, although one meru at Pura Taman Ayun in Mengwi has two. The tumpang are square and diminish in size toward the top, so that the effect is that of a Chinese pagoda, except the colors are somber.

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The laws of traditional Balinese architecture carefully specify the dimension of a meru, the way it must be constructed, the types of wood appropriate for each part, the right time to construct it and the ceremonies involved in its dedication. Failing to observe all these rules will results a calamity to the builder of the meru and an elaborate guru piduka (asking forgiveness) offering is needed to stop the calamity.

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Meru is not often found in ordinary family temple not just, because it is very expensive to build and maintain but also there is a rule that only a central family temple that are allowed to be equipped with meru.

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Some family temples have two-tiered merus signify that these family temples are the central temple of other related family temples. Some temples have five-tiered merus dedicated to the god of Gunung Agung, Bhatara Mahajaya. A meru with three levels is often dedicated to the god of Gunung Lebah, Bhatara Danu. The one in Mengwi with just two tumpangs is for Ratu Ngurah. The most spectacular eleven-tiered meru are to be found at Pura Besakih, at Pura Taman Ayun in Mengwi, at Pura Kehen in Bangli, and at Pura Danau Batur in Kintamani.

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