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To be playful with primates and prayerful at the holy temples.

A primate habitat known as the Mandala Wisata Wanara Wana or otherwise referred to as the Ubud Monkey Forest is another popular tourist destination in Bali.

One of the 14th century Hindu temples inside Ubud Monkey forest

Home to more than 700 long-tailed macaques, it is tucked deep in the forest covering approximately 10 hectares with a labyrinth composed of zigzagging water streams, hilly slopes, towering trees of around 115 different species, and three sacred Hindu temples.

Banana crazy welcoming party

As soon I walked inside the complex, I heard a Caucasian woman let out a surprised scream-as a macaque climbed over her head. Her male companion was telling her, 'It will be alright, just move slowly and raise your hand,' to which she obeyed by lifting her hand holding a banana. The monkey snatched the fruit quickly and leaped back to the ground as the other primates followed suit and they all disappeared into the forest.

As I surveyed the place and took photographs of the first temple, I saw other the macaques chilling. Some are casually seated over statues and plant boxes, rubbing their bellies and armpits, while the others went around being playfully with the tourists.

Long-tailed macaques

I opted not to interact with the macaques, opting not to buy bananas from the vendors. They seem pudgy and already over-fed to me, so I just avoided eye-contact because I read that some would take it a sign of aggression or playfulness.

After watching the long-tailed creatures make fun of the horde of visitors, I turned my attention to the sacred temples housed inside the Ubud Monkey Forest.

14th-century Hindu temples

According to the Pura Purana, a holy book made from the leaves of palm trees, the three temples inside the Ubud Monkey Forest were built in the 14th century at the height of the Pejeng Dynasty.

Found on the southwestern part of the complex is the Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal Temple or the Great Temple of Death. In this temple, the Hindus worship the God HyangWidhi or Acintya-the Supreme God of Indonesian Hinduism, who they believe is characterizing Shiva the Recycler.

Garden statue covered in moss

In the northwestern part of the Monkey Forest, the Pura Beji Holy Spring Temple is where the God Hyang Widhi personifies the Goddess Gangga. Hindu faithfuls come here to conduct the ritual of purification and spiritual cleansing.

Completing the troika of Hindu temples is the Prajapati Temple, situated at the northeastern part of the park. This is used to worship the God Hyang Widhi as Prajapati-a creator God. A cemetery is near the temple, which at that time I was unaware of.

This cemetery is where the bodies of the departed Hindus are taken for temporary burial before they are sent to a proper mass cremation ceremony-something that is held once in five years. Had I known this, I would definitely have checked it out.

Lost in the playful presence of the monkeys are the significant roles of the temples that contribute to the continuous refinement of the local community's spiritual life. I later learned that, setting aside the attraction of the long-tailed macaques, the religious, artistic and cultural impact of the Ubud Monkey Forest is one of more enthralling topics one must learn when visiting this place.

As I inched my way toward the exit, I passed by four macaques huddled together in a corner. I noticed what appeared to be the mother nursing her baby while the father coolly embraces them. Despite of their goofiness and bouncy attitude, these creatures also make sure to spend some quality family time with each other. I found the scene a very heartwarming one-and just like that, I sort of felt rejuvenated as I exited the Ubud Monkey Forest.
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Aug 12, 2018
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