Hindu leaders on the Indonesian island of Bali lashed out Tuesday at a government plan to attract more tourists to their most sacred temple as “degrading” to Hinduism.
“These sites are the centre 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,” Indonesian Hindu Association head Ngurah Sudyana told AFP.
“We are concerned that our spirituality will be degraded and exploited if these sites are just seen as commercial.”
The Besakih temple and the volcano upon which it sits is on the official list of 88 destinations across Indonesia to be developed for tourism over the next 15 years.
The sites are in eastern Bali and already receive some tourists, but are far less crowded than the major tourist areas in the south of the island. Sudyana said he was concerned the government plan would change this, according to reports.
“We are worried big buildings for accommodation and entertainment will be erected,” he said.
The temple is known as “mother temple” by Bali’s Hindus, a huge stone complex sitting 1000 meters up on the side of Mount Agung, which is also considered sacred.
The Tourism Ministry has defended the plan and said it intends to hold consultations with Hindu leaders in Bali 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,” said ministry spokesman Noviendi Makalam.
“There will be no major developments there without consultations with the community first.”
In order to boost tourism, the ministry plans to improve links and accommodation at the selected destinations on the list, which was first drawn up in 2011.
Indonesia’s tourism industry is often criticized for being underdeveloped compared to neighboring countries like Thailand and Malaysia.
But there is a growing unease on Bali about the pace of development.