Tanah Lot is a famous rock formation off the Indonesian island of Bali. It is home of a famous pilgrimage temple, the Pura Tanah Lot and a popular picture motiv for tourists.
Tanah Lot means “Land in the Middle of the sea” in Balinese language. Located about 20 km from Denpasar, the temple sits on a huge offshore rock which has been shaped continuously over the years by the ocean tide.
Tanah Lot is said to be the work of the 15th century priest Nirartha. The story goes that during his travels along the south coast he saw the rock-island’s beautiful setting and rested there. Some fishermen saw him, and bought him gifts. Nirartha then spent the night on the little island. Later he spoke to the fishermen and told them to build a shrine on the rock for he felt it to be a holy place to worship the Balinese sea gods.
The Tanah Lot temple was then built and has been an important part of Balinese mythological history for centuries. The temple is one of seven sea temples around the Balinese coast. It was said that each of the sea temples was to be within eyesight of the next so that they formed a chain along the south-western coast.
At the base of the rocky island, poisonous sea snakes are believed to guard the temple from evil spirits and intruders. There is said to be one giant snake which also protects the temple. It is believed that this snake was created from Nirartha’s scarf when he established the island.
In 1980 the temple’s rock face was starting to crumble and the area around and inside the temple started to become dangerous. The Japanese government then provided a loan to the Indonesia government of Rp. 800 billion to conserve the historic temple and other beach locations around the island of Bali. As a result, over one third of the rock which can be seen is artificial rock created under the Japanese upgrade works.