The split gates of Chandi Bentar are one of the most classic visual symbols of Bali.
Chandi Bentar is usually found at the entrances of religious structures, royal palaces, or cemeteries. However, lately, more secular establishments have been incorporating Chandi Bentar into their architecture. A vivid example of this can be seen in the entrance gates to the beach in Kuta or the gates of the Bali Handara golf resort.
Chandi Bentar consists of symmetrical gates in the shape of a Balinese temple silhouette, divided in the middle. To pass through them, a person usually needs to ascend several steps. Such gates are not only found in Bali but also in Java, from where the Majapahit dynasty once brought culture to Bali, as well as in Lombok.
There are several styles of Chandi Bentar, ranging from simple and smooth ones made of red bricks in the Majapahit dynasty style in Cirebon, Demak on Java, plaster-covered sliding gates in the Kaybon Palace in Banten, Surakarta, and Yogyakarta also on Java, to elaborately decorated gates of Balinese temples and palaces.
Chandi Bentar gates don't serve any protective purpose; they were originally designed to be doorless.
The symbolism of these gates is explained in various ways.
According to some versions, these gates resemble the sacred Mount Meru, which was split into two equal parts. Meru is a mythological mountain where gods reside. It appears not only in Hindu mythology but also in Jain and Buddhist stories.
According to other versions, the two sides of the split gates represent the Balinese concept of duality and the importance of maintaining a balance between dark and light forces.
Some cultural experts believe that Chandi Bentar gates are solely for aesthetic purposes, creating a sense of grandeur before entering the temple.
Chandi Bentar gates (lacking a top lintel or arch) and Paduraksa gates (arched gates with doors) are important components of Balinese and Javanese temples.
Both types of gates divide spaces with varying degrees of sacredness within the temple. Chandi Bentar usually marks the boundary between the outer world and the outer courtyard of a Balinese temple (nista mandala).
Paduraksa, on the other hand, typically serves as the boundary between the middle courtyard of the temple (madya mandala) and the innermost, most sacred courtyard (utama mandala).
In Balinese temples, numerous rituals take place, and Chandi Bentar gates often serve as a colorful backdrop for ceremonies of sacred dances. More sacred-level dances are performed in the inner courtyard of the temple, where Paduraksa gates become the visual centerpiece of majestic ceremonies.
The tradition of creating Chandi Bentar gates is believed to have originated around the 13th to 14th centuries during the Hindu period of the Javanese Vedic dynasties of Singhasari and Majapahit.
The oldest Chandi Bentar gates still in existence were discovered by archaeologists in Trowulan, the ancient capital of the Majapahit dynasty. They were named Vringin Lavang - or "gate of the banyan tree."
The spread of Chandi Bentar was linked to the aesthetic influence of the Majapahit dynasty on Javanese and Balinese architecture.
However, even after the spread of Islam in Java, Chandi Bentar gates continued to be used.
The 16th-century Menara Kudus Mosque (Menara Kudus), one of the oldest mosques in Java, still includes a Chandi Bentar gate as an entrance to the mosque complex. The Sendang Duwur Muslim cemetery complex in a village in East Java also contains both Chandi Bentar and Paduraksa gates.
In our time, the construction of Chandi Bentar is encouraged by the Indonesian government as a form of regional identity.
The government of the Banten province in Java encourages the construction of Chandi Bentar gates, following the example of the gates of the Kaybon Palace, especially those located along the main roads.
In the city of Cirebon in West Java, the red-brick Chandi Bentar gates have become a signature style of the city.
Chandi Bentar gates also mark the entrances to various civic buildings; for example, they are erected at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta.
The number of Chandi Bentar gates in Bali is countless, but among them, there are particularly majestic ones, skillfully decorated and beloved by tourists.
Lempuyang Temple is one of the most popular spots among Instagrammers visiting the island. If you want to capture yourself within these gates, be prepared to wait in line for several hours.
The highlight of these gates is the view of Mount Agung, which becomes visible between the halves of the Chandi Bentar in clear weather.
By the way, if the view of Agung isn't a must for you and you simply appreciate the aesthetics of the gates, you can go around them from the opposite side and photograph them from below without the queues.
2.Bali Handara Gate
The gates mark the entrance to the territory of a mountain golf resort. Previously, anyone interested could freely and without charge come here. However, after these gates gained Instagram popularity, a manager was stationed there, collecting money for taking photographs.
Besakih Temple is considered the main Hindu sanctuary on the island. And the Chandi Bentar gates here are very unique and unlike any others in shape.
This beach is the most crowded and popular on the island. Thousands of tourists pass through it every day.
The Chandi Bentar gates look particularly impressive against the backdrop of the blue expanse of the ocean and the waves raging in the distance.