As one of the most popular tourist attractions in Bali, many travelers visit Ubud Monkey Forest to see the hundreds of playful monkeys in a calm, lush forest. However, the spot means so much more to the Balinese culture than just a habitat for monkeys and trees.
The Ubud Monkey Forest has been around for so long that its history was determined through a thorough analysis on the site. Based on analysis conducted by researchers and experts, the temple’s construction dates back to the 14th century, making the Ubud Monkey Forest older than its home country, Indonesia. During that era, the area that now forms Indonesia was governed by separate ancient kingdoms.
The Ubud area itself was a royal neighborhood where royal families live in grand palaces, many of which still stand until now. Unfortunately, due to limited documentations available from that prehistoric time, it’s unclear who exactly built or designed the site.
The temple is built upon the Balinese traditional philosophy called Tri Hita Karana, the “three causes of well-being” that include the harmony with God, with other people, and with nature. The philosophy is manifested in the 12.5 hectares (30.8 acres) area, where visitors can find temples for worship, lush forest, and hundreds of monkeys.
There are three temples in the Ubud Monkey Forest, each dedicated to different gods. The main temple is where people pray to Lord Shiva, the “destroyer and transformer” in Hindu. The Holy Spring Temple features a holy water to cleanse the body and soul before worshipping the Goddess Gangga. The cremation temple serves as a place to worship Lord Brahma Prajapati, located near a temporary cemetery used to bury bodies before they undergo the cremation ceremony. Tourists are welcome to explore the forest complex, but the temples are strictly for prayer. Even so, visitors can still enjoy many symbolic traditional sculptures throughout the area.
The temples and sculptures are created following the traditional Balinese architectural style, influenced by Hindu teachings. The sculptures in the monkey forest are believed to symbolize energies supporting the power of the temples.
There are at least 115 species of trees in the forest, some of which are significant in Balinese culture as sacred or as materials used during rituals. About 600 monkeys live in the forest area, more specifically known as the Balinese long-tail macaque (Macaca fascicularis).