From the 13th to the 16th centuries, chronicles refer to the importance of Sanur priests and scholars and today, Sanur is one of the few communities still ruled by priests of the Brahmana caste. These priests recognised both the threat and opportunity that tourism presented and imposed the famous rule that buildings cannot be taller than the highest coconut tree and established village co-operatives to ensure that a share of economic benefits remains within the community. Known throughout Bali as a home to sorcerers and healers, Sanur is often revered. The black-and-white chequered cloth seen around Bali is emblematic of Sanur. Symbolising the balance of good and evil, it can be found adorning the many temples in the region.
A string of ancient temples can be found near the beach. Their low-corralled walls and platform altars are peculiar to Sanur. Anniversary celebrations at these temples are exuberant and strange to Westerners. Sanur is also home to the oldest dated artefact found on Bali – a pillar, with inscriptions on it recounting military victories more than a thousand years ago and making reference to King Sri Kesari Varma who came to Bali in AD 913 to teach Buddhism.