Puja Mandala: A showcase of religious tolerance

by Luh De Suriyani on 2013-05-14

Heaven on earth: A granite plaque announces this location as a place of devotion, where congregations of different faiths perform their rites side-by-side in peace.Heaven on earth: A granite plaque announces this location as a place of devotion, where congregations of different faiths perform their rites side-by-side in peace.

The picture of Indonesia’s religious tolerance and cultural diversity is obvious when one enters Puja Mandala on the hilltop of Nusa Dua in Badung regency.

Derived from the Sanskrit words puja (devotion, worship) and mandala (space), the worship complex is now one of the jewels of Bali, an island known for its religious tolerance and multi-ethnicity.

Buddhas on the wall: A member of staff mans a reception table in a room adorned with pictures of BuddhaBuddhas on the wall: A member of staff mans a reception table in a room adorned with pictures of Buddha

Perched on a 2.5-hectare plot of land in an area dense with glittering star-rated hotels and villas, Puja Mandala offers a different and serene atmosphere.

It was actually an ambitious megaproject commissioned by president Soeharto’s New Order regime to former tourism minister Joop Ave, who at that time was still director general for tourism, post and telecommunication.

In 1980, Joop lodged his idea to build a worship complex that housed buildings for all the religions in Indonesia. The idea became a reality when the president agreed to the plan to develop a worship complex in Bualu village near Nusa Dua in 1994. The project was finished three years later and officially inaugurated by then-minister of religious affairs, Tarmizi Taher.

Shiny roof: The conical-shaped top of the Buddhist temple is painted in gold.Shiny roof: The conical-shaped top of the Buddhist temple is painted in gold.

The worship complex is home to Ibnu Baitullah Mosque, which stands right next to Maria Bunda Segala Bangsa (Maria, the Mother of all Nations) Catholic Church. Next to the Catholic Church is the Budhina Guna Buddhist Temple. The Bukit Doa (Prayer Hill) Protestant Church stands side-by-side with the Jagat Natha Hindu Temple.

Arches: The Catholic church boast a spacious front entrance.Arches: The Catholic church boast a spacious front entrance.

Visitors, domestic and foreign, flock to Puja Mandala to praise the beautifully designed places of worship, each with its own distinguished architectural style. Dozens of tourist buses park in the complex’s spacious and shady parking lot overlooking the stunning views of Benoa Bay.

The real essence of religious tolerance shines during religious celebrations when all people — worship congregations, local communities and visitors alike — work together to make the celebrations a success.

Destination: Over the years, the site has grown into a busy tourist destinationDestination: Over the years, the site has grown into a busy tourist destination

Leaving the mosque: Two visitors exit the gate of the mosque in Puja MandalaLeaving the mosque: Two visitors exit the gate of the mosque in Puja Mandala

During Galungan and Kuningan celebrations, Hindu believers pray at the lavishly decorated temple, while other worshippers help prepare for the event and the local community helps safeguard the place.

Similarly, during other religious celebrations — Idul Fitri, Christmas and Waisak — people may witness the togetherness, respect and tolerance that are the basic philosophies of Puja Mandala worship complex.

- Photos by Anton Muhajir

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