Pura Petitenget was built by Dang Hyang Nirartha, the Hindu priest who also built Pura Luhur Ulwatu and many other important temples in Bali, as a ‘chest’ to imprison the evil spirits.
On his pilgrimage journey to Bali from the neighbouring Java to spread Hinduism, Dang Hyang Nirartha made a number of stops at different parts on the island to meditate – and eventually built temples – including the one in an area that is currently home to some of Bali’s finest establishments, Petitenget. One day, Nirartha was resting amidst the bushes of Petitenget and fell asleep. Minutes after he had closed his eyes, Nirartha was awakened by the presence of a creature in the shape of a human but with a monsterous face. It took only a heartbeat for Nirartha to learn that his sleep was disturbed by an evil entity.
The monster, known as Buto Ijo, also quickly learned that the man he encountered possessed great spiritual power. Knowing that Nirartha could easily defeat him, Buto Ijo fled the scene as fast as he could. Of course, the so-much-more-powerful Nirartha managed to catch Buto Ijo and interrogated the monster.
Under Nirartha’s spell, Buto Ijo responded to every question Nirartha asked him very honestly – it was such an unfortunate day for the monster to have encountered the Hindu priest. Ijo also willingly confessed to Nirartha that he had spent years haunting the villagers in Petitenget and the surrounding villages.
Knowing that Ijo had spent years plaguing, stealing, and even killing in Petitenget and other surrounding villages, Nirartha gave the monster a severe punishments. In addition to making the monster pay for what he had done, Nirartha also taught Ijo spiritual values, turning the monster from an evil entity into the guardian of the villages he used to haunt.
Nirartha went on clearing the area, capturing the evil spirits that had caused disruptions in the greater Petitenget area. He then imprisoned these evil spirits inside two wooden chests, and asked Ijo to guard them with his life. Ijo did as he was told; he guarded the chests and the villages.
Dang Hyang Nirartha then built a temple right where he placed the two chests with Buto Ijo guarding them; the temple is now known as Pura Petitenget, meaning the temple of the haunted chest.
The villagers soon realised what Nirartha had done for them, and how he had tamed an evil monster and turned him into the guardian of their village. They were rejoiced, for their village was finally free of harm.
Today, despite being somewhat overshadowed by the luxury resorts and other fine establishments in the area, Pura Petitenget still remains an important highlight as one of the very few cultural landmarks in the upscale Seminyak. The temple also forms one of the Bali’s Kahyangan collection of sea temples built by Dang Hyang Nirartha to spiritually guard the island’s perimeters.
During temple anniversary, which falls on a ‘Merakih’ Wednesday every 210 days on the Balinese Pawukon calendar, Pura Petitenget is made merry by the colourful banners and parasols, as well as the pilgrims wearing their colourful, traditional Sunday best for a praying session. And prior to the big temple anniversary ceremony, traditional dance rehearsals by the local Balinese Hindus normally take place at the grand pavilion nearby. And when it happens, the festivity makes a great introduction to the real Bali for visitors to the modern Seminyak.
Only meters away from Pura Petitenget, and over a wooden bridge, is the stretch of Petitenget Beach that is known as one of top spots for sunset watching.