Indonesia is archipelago stretches from the island of Sumatra to Irian Jaya and Bali is situated between highly populated Java and idyllic Lombok. Amongst the 13,700 Indonesia island Bali is the only Hindu province and the rice blend of traditional and culture has and incredible impact.
Bali capture much of the soul and identity of Indonesia yet it has evolved into a unique culture of it own, making it a very special place. Even Though it is relatively small, approximately 5,000 square kilometers in all, Bali boasts a whole range of different environments. This compact landscape centers on a line of active volcanoes with alluvial slopes that spill done to coastal plains.
Tropical rainforests fringe the mountains, eventually giving way to carefully cultivated rice field and crop growth. Further down on the plains, water logged mangrove swamps lead to the ocean. A number of different river and streams wind there way through a cross section of these environment and done to the spectacular beaches. Bali enjoys a consistently warm climate, which is particularly mild in the dray season, and the mountains ensure there is a steady rainfall to periodically cool the island down through the rainy season.
The people, the language and the Castes in Bali.
The Balinese, like all Indonesian, are classified as Malays who belonged to the Palaeo – Mongoloid sub race. In the subdivision into early and late Malays the Balinese belong to the latter group.
The ancestors of the Indonesian, of course also of the Balinese, lived originally in what is now Junan, in south – west China. In about 2000 B.C. the moved south ward to the coast of is now Viet Nam to Sumatra, Java, Bali, Borneo ( Kalimantan), Sulawesi and other islands of Indonesia. When the Balinese settled in Bali is not know with certainty and precision. The ancestors of the Balinese took with them the knowledge of wet rice culture which thrives until today and which is still done in the same way.
The languages of the Indonesians are cognate, i.e. the words have the same root. I was very much surprised to hear in Bima, a town in the island of Sumbawa, hundreds of miles away from bali, the Balinese word “Mai”, meaning come here, pronounced in the same way and having the same meaning. The low Balinese language is closer to the languages spoken in Lombok and Sumbawa than to those spoken in java. The “Alus” or refined language is of course close to Javanese, because it was brought to Bali by the Javanese nobility when the where commissioned by Mojopahit emperor to ruler Bali.
By the introduction of the caste system to Bali from Java the Balinese Language underwent great changes. There are now three distinctly different languages spoken in Bali, i.e. the “low” language, the middle language and the reverent one. There is a fourth language, not spoken but widely read. It is called “kawi” or “Jawa Kuno”, old Javanese, and it s very close to Sanskrit, the old Indian (Hindu) language. It is written on “Lontar Leaves” and used to describe ancient stories.
The low language is closer that spoken by the Sasaks in Lombok and by the Bima people of Sumbawa. Depending on to whom or about whom one speaks, one uses the low, the middle or the reverent language. One uses the low language when one speaks to his equals or his subordinates. It was the privilege of a high caste man to speak in low language to a low caste man. The middle language is used when a man speaks to his immediate superiors or for instance a son addresses his father. The reverent language is spoken when one address a king or high priest. It is very ironic that the illiterate peasant has to be a linguist, because he has to communication with all his superiors in those languages.
Generally speaking there are four groups of people in Bali. The three upper groups are called “Triwangsa”, i.e. the Brahmin caste, the ksatriya and the wesya caste. In India these groups are called “Triwarna”, the three colors. Every group of the “triwangsa” has its own title. A Brahmin male is called Ida Bagus and Brahmin female has Ida Ayu in front of her name. If one sees the name Ida Bagus Rai one knows that this man is a male of the Brahmin caste, because Ida indicates that he is of the Brahmin caste; Bagus means that the person is a male and Rai is his real name. If the name is Ida Ayu Rai one immediately knows that the person is a female, indicated by the word Ayu. “Dewa” indicates a ksatriya male and “Dewa Ayu” means a female Ksatriya. A wesya male has the words Gusti Bagus before his name and Gusti Ayu is for a female Wesya. Two other indicators are I for males and Ni for females. Sometimes the word I is considered honorific. A man feels better if his name is written I Gusti Bagus Sugriwa than when his name is just Gusti Bagus Sugriwa.
The fourth is the Sudra group. Luckily unlike India, Bali has no fifth group, the Paria (varies). The sudra has no title, but the group has it own peculiarity. The Sudra people put in front of their names the words Gede, Wayan or Putu for the first born; Nengah or made indicates the second born; Nyoman is for the third born and Ketut is for the fourth born. The “I’ and “Ni” prefixes also apply to this group.
Bali has no family names. If the father is Gede Jiwa, none of his children bears the name Jiwa. They have names of their own, e.g. Gde Rai or Nyoman Lingga.
The caste system in India was originally a division of labor. If one learned to read and write he became a teacher or priest; he belonged to the Brahmin caste. If one was strong and liked to fight he was assigned to protect and rule the country, then he belonged to the ksatria group. The merchants, the economists and those who saw to the prosperity of the country by producing food were grouped into the wesya. The sudras wer the labourers who helped the Triwarna or Triwangsa. The Parias were so low in the social ladder that they were only good for the dirtiest work.
Bali, being Hindu, still has the caste system, but the line divining the caste is not very clear any more. The castes are not strictly observed. Formerly intermarriage between castes very seldom happened, because it was a crime when a man of lower caste married a girl of higher caste.
Since the independence of Indonesia the central Government does not recognize this as a crime. Nowadays there is much more intermarriage between castes. The caste system was introduced to Bali with the arrival of Mojopahit nobles after the conquest of Bali by Gajah Mada, the famous prime Minister of Mojopahit, the last Hindu kingdom of East java. The nobles were sent to rule Bali in the name of the kings of Mojopahit. They were called Aryas and they took with them their courtiers and they continued to live in Bali as the were used to in the courts of Mojopahit. Their descendants still proudly proclaim themselves descendants of Arya Kenceng, Arya Damar, Arya Belog, and other Aryas who were sent to Bali to rule. Anyone who wants to be counted as somebody in Bali proclaims himself to be a descendant of Mojopahit. The people do this to this to distinguish themselves from the Bali Aga, the Balinese who did not want to have very much to do with the new rulers and for these reasons the retreated into the mountains.
The rulers of Mojopahit brought with them to Bali their court manners and language and greatly influenced the Balinese language. With the fall of Mojopahit in early 16 th century the royal family, the nobilities and those who did want to be converted into Islam fled to bali and brought with them their culture included their books, written on “Lontar” leaves in old Javanese. In Bali it is called kawi, a language still widely read but not spoken. This Mojopahit culture still lives on in the Balinese culture of today.
The Occupations and structure of their Village.
Occupations The main occupation of the Balinese is farming, and one has to admit that they are good farmers. They build farmland as high as there is enough water to irrigate it or as high as they can get the water to irrigate it. For centuries they have adopted contour farming, i.e. building rice fields according to the contour or form of the land and hills and out of necessity they have to build terraces to make irrigation easier and to keep the topsoil where it belongs. These terraced rice fields have enhanced the beauty of the island and many visitors consider Bali as one beautiful garden.
Besides being good farmers the Balinese are good craftsmen. Proofs of their craftsmanship are they many ornately carved temples scattered all over the island which give Bali the endearing name of the Island of the Thousand Temple. Visitors also admire woodcarving, stone carving, and painting.
In the old days people carved only temples and Puris, large compounds of high caste people who were usually rich. At present people still carve temples, but no one builds a Puri anymore, because it is so expensive in building and upkeep. So now people do carving and painting nearly exclusively for tourists and stone carving is still in great demand not only in Bali but also in large cities in Java, such as Jakarta and Surabaya.
The Desa (Village) If one drive through the country side and sees a clump or cluster of trees in the distance one is sure to find a village or at least a settlement in it. The farmers live in such a Desa or Village and the desa is the “social unit” in Bali. A desa consists of smaller units, the “pekarangan” or compound, where the whole family lives. Such a” pekarangan” is walled area with a gate in front that the only entrance to it. Behind such a compound there is always a backyard where bamboo, fruit trees and other plants grow and where the cowsheds are built. Also in the compound itself there are other fruit trees, such as papaya, banana and nangka or jackfruit.
A fullfledged or complete village must have at least three temple, i.e. the Pura Puseh where the founders of the village are worshipped and where lord Brahma resides, the Pura Desa where the activities of the village manifest and where Lord Wisnu is worshipped and the Pura Dalem, where the souls of the dead are judged whether they go to heaven or hell. The Pura Dalem is of course the domain of Lord Siwa, the Destroyer.
The Desa has two functions, a religious and a social one. The religious function lies in the maintenance of the three main temples and their religious celebrations and exorcism of demonic hordes in the village in order to maintain the cosmic order the balance of the territory of the Desa, thus to ensure the welfare of the village and the people. The villages do this by worshipping the divine powers by bringing offerings to the temple on their anniversary days and exorcising the demonic forces by giving them sacrificial offerings.
Although there are differences between the inhabitants as regards to their functions and right-of-say yet everyone and every group are expected to cooperate in performing the community task by helping to maintain and restore the village temple and provide offerings and whatever is needed for the temple festivals and the ceremonies of purifications and exorcism.
The social function lies in helping to bury the dead, to build a house, a simple house, to help each other to prepare the rice fields, to help each other to prepare the offerings for festivals and cremations. But it is very difficult to draw a line between religious and social functions, because these functions are overlapping and intricately entwined.
The Desa generally has a “Wantilan”, a community building where village matters are discussed and where the cock-fight is held and where the village activities are done. There is a village head democratically elected by the villagers.
The Banjar (Community)
The Desa generally consists of smaller units, called the Banjar. People don’t like a banjar to be too large because it will become too difficult to rule or organize.
A banjar usually has about 150 members at the most. If the membership is more than that the Banjar is divided into two smaller ones. As with the membership of a temple only married people can be members of a banjar or better said only married men are registered of banjar.
The wives are not registered, but they do come to the banjar to help every time there is something to do for them. The young boys form the “Sekeha Teruna”, youth club, and the young girls are organized into the “Sekeha Deha”, girls club. They are assigned work in the banjar fit to be done by young boys and girls, such as fetching water from a spring or well when there is a ceremony in the banjar that needs much water.
Every banjar has a Balai Banjar, a community hall where every activity of the Banjar is done, such as preparing a banquette, sewing ornaments for a festival, done by the women discussions of banjar matters and cockfights that follow every festival.
More than the Desa the banjar is the people where the community spirit shows and more than the desa’s the banjar’s function lies in the social field. The banjar is obliged to help a banjar member in need; when a nember has an accident the members come and see whether he needs help and also show participation and concern. When a member has a celebration the whole banjar comes to help him make the preparations and the women make the offerings. Only the male banjar members prepare the baquette; no women is allowed near it.
If there is a death in the banjar the family notifies the head of the banjar. The banjar head then beats the kulkul, the wooden drum that hangs in the bale kulkul, drum house, possessed by every banjar, in the code of death. Every male comes out with tools to make the “Pepaga”, stretcher, and to cut bamboo, because the stretcher is always made of bamboo. The female goes to the house of the family who has the dead and makes the offerings necessary for the burial.
The banjar does not help only its own members but also other banjars when asked. Sometimes a celebration is too big for one banjar, such as a cremation, and the head of the banjar goes to one or two neighboring banjars to ask them for help. When asked the banjar never refuses to help.
A few days before the Galungan day begins and during the galungan days, the Sekeha Deha, girls group, organizes a night stall in the bale banjar. The stall sells food and drinks and the girls are the waiters. The boys of the banjar spend the evenings in the stall. Sometimes the male members of other banjars are invited to come and buy. There is no dating yet among the uneducated youth, so such an occasion is opportunity for boys to meet girls to meet boys.
Like every building in Balinese society a Bale banjar, Community hall, has a temple which celebrates its anniversary day every 210 days or every full moon, so every 12 lunar months, depending what is used to inaugurate the temple.
The Local Society and the Temple.
It is not surprising that Bali is called the island of the thousand temples. Everywhere one turns one sees a temple. There are so many temples that the Government does not bother to count them. There are small temples, very small temples with only a very few shrines; there are large temples, very large temples with more than 50 shrines, such as the temple of Besakih, the mother temple of Bali. There are even lonely shrines on the oddest places where one does not expect them at all.
Every family, every compound, every clan or society has a temple; you mention a society or organization and it has a temple. In the compound where the family lives there is the family temple. The Desa itself must have at least three temples, i.e. (1) the Pura Puseh, (2) the Pura Desa and (3) the Pura Dalem. The clan has its own temple. The Subak or irrigation organization has a temple, called Pura Subak or Pura Bedugul. Every place where the water to irrigate the rice fields is divided has a temple or at least a shrine. Bali as a whole has a temple, the Pura Besakih or the Mother Temple, where every sect and nobility have their own temple.
The Balinese are worshippers of ancestors. The family does this in the family temple or house temple. The village does this in the Pura Puseh and all Bali does this in the temple of Besakih.
In south Bali the house temple is always in the North-East corner of the compound in regions South-west of mount Agung. The reason for this is that the top of Mount Agung is the highest spot in Bali and the highest spot is for God, Ida Sanghyang Widhi. Because the people should pray towards and God lives and the top of Mount vAgung as the highest spot in Bali and Mount Agung happens to lie in the East that is why in South Bali the house temple is in the North-East corner of the compound. In north Bali it is the South-East corner where the house temple is built.
The number of shrines in the house temple depends on the wish of the family and it also depends on where the family originally comes from. That is why the visitors in one house temple sees only a few shrines and in another, right next to it, much more. But in a house temple there must be at least two shrines, the “Sakti Kemulan”, the Kemulan is for god and the purified ancestors and the Sakti is for the producing power of God. No matter how poor the compound is the house is there. This house temple can be very temporary built only of bamboo, but it can also be very elaborate; the shrines are very nicely carved and painted with gold leaves.
Only the purified dead, that is to say the dead who have been oremated, join God in the Kemulan shrine in the house temple. With some high caste people the family makes a shrine for every ancestor who in his life had done a great service to the family, and accordingly in the house temple of such a family there is more than one ancestral shrine.
Near the entrance to a compound there is always a guardian shrine, in front of or behind it; sometimes there are two shrines in front for it, flanking it. This guardian shrine is for the spirit that has to guard the premise.
As told before a full-fledged village has to have at least three temples; 1.The Pura Puseh, where the founders of the village are worshipped, always lies in the Kaja sphere, towards the mountains, so it lies on the highest spot in the village; Lord Brahmathe Creator resides there. 2.The Pura Desa, the village temple, is built in the center of the village, where Lord Wisnu, the maintainer, is worshipped, because in the Pura Desa the activities of the village manifest to maintain the welfare of the village and its inhabitants. In old societies, the Pura Desa always has the Bale Agung, a long wooden building where the villagers monthly come together and sit to discuss village matters. The Bale Agung is also the place where the Ngusaba ceremony, a ceremony to honor Dewi Sri, the Rice Goddess, is held. The Pura Desa with a Bale Agung is called Pura Bale Agung, because not every Pura Desa has a Bale Agung. 3. In the Kelod sphere, toward the sea, so on the lowest part of the village, lies the cemetery. Near it the Pura Dalem is built. This is the right place for the Pura Dalem, because it is the temple of death or the temple for the dead. Of course Lord Siwa, the Destroyer, resides and is worshipped there.
The site of the three main temples is in accordance to the deep belief of the Balinese that the mountains are for God; the plains, the center of the country, are for the people and the sea, the lowest part of the country, is for the demonic forces.
Besides the three main temples there is the clan temple, called Pura Ibu, Pura Pemaksan or Pura Panti. Outside the village out in the rice fields, is the Subak temple, maintained by organization of irrigation and farmers, where naturally Dewi Sri, the Rice Goddess, is worshipped
The Villagers and the Holy places.
What the Balinese do not understand or what is strance to them, example a spring or big tree, is holy. As a holy place it has to have a temple or at least a shrine. A banyan tree, because it is so large and awes the people, is holy and ones see always a shrine under it, where people can make offerings to the spirit of the tree. Near a spring there is always a shrine and more often than not such a spring becomes the place where the deities go for a cleansing bath. A whole temple is built around the holy spring of Tirtha Empul at Tampaksiring, a spring of fresh water bubbling up all the time that awes the people so much.
A Balinese compound has always the house temple inside and a guardian shrine outside. The Bale Banjar has a temple; a bathing place has a temple or at least a shrine. There a temple especially built to house the Barong, a mythical animal considered very holy by the people. All lakes in Bali have temples. In such temples Dewi Danu, the lake Goddess, is worshipped and since a lake is a water reservoir the members of the Subak go there in case of a drought. For Baruna, the sea God, the Balinese build the Pura Segara, the sea temple, a place for purification ceremonies, because the sea although full of demonic force also has purifying forces. If there is no temple the people just sit on the sand and pray to God Baruna, and ask him for Purification.
Two days before the Nyepi, the Balinese New year, there are purification ceremonies all over south Bali. The purpose of all this is that the new year is really begun with a new clan slate. Tools, men and deities all are purified.
Every country has its own national (country) temple and Bali has three:
1. Pura Besakih on the slope of mount Agung,
2. Pura Ulun Danu Batur at Batur Kalanganyar in the country of Bangli.
3. Pura Gelgel at Gelgel in the country of Klungkung.
All these three temples are called Pura Gumi, the people’s temples. People from all over Bali go to these temples to worship.
Besakih temple is the biggest where every clan has its temple and every group of nobility has its own “Pedarman”, temple. In it there is the Tri Purusa, there shrine on a common pedestal, where everyone goes to pray before or after he goes to his own temple in the Besakih complex. The Tri Purusa is for Brahma, the Creator, Wisnu, the Maintainer and Siwa, the Destroyer and Mahadewa another name for Siwa. Siwa and Mahadewa sit in one Padmasana. One can distinguish the seats of the Trinity to the colour of each God; red for Brahma, Black is for Wisnu, White is for Siwa and Yellow is for Mahadewa.
So a piece of read cloth is hung around the shrine for Brahma; a Black cloth is wrapped around that Wisnu and around the shrine for Siwa and Mahadewa are wrapped two pieces of cloth, a white and yellow one. Red means fire; black is prosperity, white is purity and yellow is for holiness.
Besides ordinary shrine, structure with one roof of alang-alang, tall grass, there are “Merus”, high structures with odd numbered roofs of “Ijuk”, the fiber of the “Jaka” palm. A Meru is a seat of mountain deity or an ancestor. The Merus of the temple of Besakih are for ancestors and those of Taman Ayun are for mountain deities. Our deities have ranks. For the highest number and the lowest number is three.
In the temple of Taman Ayun, Mengwi one sees a structure of two roofs of ijuk. This is not Meru but a plain shrine. According to their rank adeity sits in Meru of three, five, seven, nine or eleven roofs.
There are two time cycles the Balinese can choose from to dedicate or inaugurate temples or buildings, example the time cycle of twelve lunar months and another one of 30 weeks of seven days. Of the lunar month year full moon or dark moon is chosen; full is chosen to inaugurate Pura Desa or / and Pura Puseh; new moon is used to dedicate Pura dalem. The days of wuku (week) year are also used to dedicate temple, but they are mostly used for public as well as family religious ceremonies. For that they consult a priest who is versed in deciding what day is good for what
The Compound and its Layout.
The smallest unit in the Balinese community is not the individual but the family. In the strictest sense of the word a family is a married couple with children and the broader sense a family is all the people who live in one compound, family compound. In one such compound there can live brothers, cousins and second cousins with all their children and all relatives who worship in one common house temple. People tend to stick together as long as the compound can hold them and only when the compound has become too small for them all does one of them move out. The oldest members of the family usually stay in the compound, because they are responsible for the family temple. In this modern age the educated members do not like to stay with the large family. As soon as they can afford they build themselves a new compound and they want to be alone and independent and stand on their own feet. But the family tie is still very strong. They do not fail to go back to the compound when family celebrates the anniversary day of the family temple.
A compound is a walled area where the whole family lives. The size of compound depends on the welfare of the family. The size and condition of compound may differ but the lay-out is nearly always the same. The compound of a rich family has walls of stone or bricks and that of a poor family has walls of mud; sometimes there is not wall at all, but just hedges of green, sometimes of only dried coconut frond. The mud walls are covered with straw to prevent the rainwater from soaking the walls from above so that the mud walls do not crumble.
There is only one entrance to compound. This entrance can be an elaborately carved stone gate or a simple one of mud or just an opening in the wall, again depending on the welfare of the owner of the compound. In old fashioned compound there is always right behind the gate a wall or a screen. This wall or screen is of course to prevent people from peeping into the compound and seeing what happens in it, so for privacy, but the religious reason for it is to prevent spirits from entering the compound. According to the popular belief spirits cannot make turns, so they dash inside and then collide against the wall and turn back.
If one enters an old fashioned compound one sees first the kitchen, shared by married women of the family. But more often there is more than one kitchen to avoid quarrels. Since the villagers are nearly all farmers one sees right next to the kitchen one more granaries where the rice is stored. In Badung and Gianyar area the house temple is in the North-East corner. If you face the house temple on your right is a building, called Bale Gde, a prestigious building, where all the religious activities are done, and where the older members of family sleep when there is no ceremony. On the left there is a one-room house with or without a front porch where usually the young girls or the newly weds sleep. There is other open building, for working and also for sleeping. The Bale Gde can be very beautifully carved and painted with gold or very simple, again depending on the welfare of the owner. Especially the house temple as everything in the compound reflects the monetary or financial status of the owner and may be very beautiful or plain. It may have shrines, carved and painted with gold, or just a few and very simple at that. Rich or poor the house temple must have at least two shrines, the Sakti Kemulan, one shrine is for God and the ancestors and the second is for the producing power of God. In many families this sakti shrine is called Taksu or Tugu.
Only deified ancestors are entitled to sit in the Kemulan shrine and ancestor is deified after he is cremated.
In such a compound there are not toilet and bathing facilities. The people do not feel the need of them yet, because there is always a public bathing place inside or outside the village, be it a spring the bushes in their backyard, the extension of their compound.
A housewife nearly always keeps a few or a sow which she feeds with the refuse of the kitchen. This is her saving pot, because she can keep the money she gets from them, when she sells them. It is even more profitable to keep a sow gives birth to sometimes 12 piglets. She keeps the big in a pigsty and for convenience she builds the pigsty behind the kitchen or very close to it, so that she has not walk too far to feed the pigs, because the food for them is cooked in the kitchen at the same she does the cooking for the family.
Since most villages are farmers they have cows to help them work the fields. The cowshed is built in the backyard of the compound. Bali has no grass land where one can graze the cows, so the people have to cut grass for the cow and if there is not much grass, in the dry season for instance, they have to cut leaves to feed the animals with.
Generally speaking animals in Bali are taken care of very well. Cows look very well fed and clean, because they are washed after every work in the field and once in the afternoon before they are led to the cowshed for the night. Even pigs are sometimes washed. The owner throws water over them and that is then their bath.
There are usually a few hens and chicken running loose in the yard or the backyard. But the nests are built in the granary or in a place close to the house, but far away from the living quarters. The pigs and the chickens are not killed to have meat for the family. People in general very seldom eat meat. They eat meat only on festival days.
In the compound people grow fruit trees. Often one sees banana trees, papaya, jackfruit trees, orange trees and some times even coconut trees