Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika has proposed that temples be excluded as tourist destinations on the island to limit, or even prevent, tourists visiting the places of worship.
"Further discussion with the island's tourist industry will be necessary to consider the proposal. It is high time for us to limit access to our temples. Please use the temples to worship the creator," he said.
Pastika was talking during a seminar held on Tuesday on tourism and the Besakih mother temple, which has recently become a hot issue among Balinese religious and community leaders since the news of the planned inclusion of the largest and the most sacred temple in Bali in one of the national strategic tourist destinations.
"Temples must function as worship places," the governor said.
Currently, traders sell various goods, from food to fashion items, outside temples. "During piodalan, temple anniversaries, the traders pack the temples' yards," the governor said.
What was more important, Pastika said, was that nobody could guarantee that all visitors were eligible to enter these sacred sites.
According to Hindu belief, menstruating women are banned from entering temples. Behavior while inside the temple must also be decent and visitors should wear appropriate clothing.
I Gusti Ngurah Sudiana, chairman of the Indonesian Parisadha Hindu High Council (PHDI), warmly welcomed the proposal.
"There are some restrictions applied to non-Hindu visitors visiting temples," Sudiana said.
A Hindu temple is architecturally and philosophically divided into three zones - the jeroan (the inner part and most sacred site of the temple), jaba tengah (the middle section) and jaba luar (temple yard).
"Visitors may enter the temple yards but must not enter the jaba tengah and jeroan," Sudiana recommended.
Spokesperson of the Indonesian Tour Guides Association (HPI) Bali chapter, Amos Lilo, said he appreciated the governor's proposal.
"But we have to remember that many foreign tourists come to Bali to learn more about the religion and culture of the Balinese people. Worship places like Besakih Temple are among the most attractive tourist destinations in Bali," Lilo said.
Lilo suggested that the government and religious bodies provide clear information on which areas in temples tourists were allowed to enter.
"Clear regulations and information are needed to avoid misunderstanding. Tourists mostly respect the religious code of ethics applied here in Bali," Lilo said.
Tanah Lot Temple is a success story. "People come to Tanah Lot to see the view of the temple but they do not disturb any ongoing religious activities," Lilo said.
Mengwi Temple in Badung regency is another success story, with the temple management clearly providing information on the temple's zoning.