DENPASAR, BALI, October 31, 2013: (hindujagruti): Hindu leaders on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali Tuesday lashed out at a government plan to attract more tourists to their most sacred temple as "degrading" to Hinduism. The Indonesian Hindu Association's concerns centered on a government decision to include the Besakih temple and the volcano upon which it sits on an official list of sites to be developed for tourism.
The row highlighted concerns that Bali's booming tourism industry is a double-edged sword, as it threatens to erode the Hindu culture which is part of the attraction for the millions who visit the tropical island.
"These sites are the center of the universe for us Balinese Hindus, and we are worried that by making it an official tourist destination, our spiritual lives will be disrupted," association head Ngurah Sudyana said. "We are concerned that our spirituality will be degraded and exploited if these sites are just seen as commercial."
The temple and volcano, in eastern Bali, were included in the list of 88 places across Indonesia to be developed for tourism over a 15-year period. Besakih, known as the "mother temple" by Balinese Hindus, is a huge, stone complex which sits 3,280 feet up the side of Mount Agung, a volcano that has great spiritual significance for Bali's Hindus.
The tourism ministry plans to improve tourism links and accommodation at the selected destinations to boost an industry that is often criticized as underdeveloped compared with neighbors like Thailand and Malaysia.
The tourism ministry defended the plan and said it planned to hold consultations with Bali's religious leaders to address their concerns. "We are trying to conserve strategic tourism destinations, not cause any disruption to them. It will certainly bring benefits to the communities,"ministry spokesman Noviendi Makalam said. "There will be no major developments there without consultations with the community first."