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Day trip to Denpasar


With an enforced early rise which made something of a novelty these days, I was lucky to bag the last seat in a Bemo for the local price against expectation and in spite of plenty of other transport touts to resist either end, I managed to succinctly trace priority number 1 in view of its threatened early closure that day. Past a grassy central square having already been availed of much ornate statuary, relief carvings and temple style doorways, the Bali Museum at first appeared to be closed, a deflating realisation supposedly confirmed by caretakers at an adjacent pagoda type shrine. I donned my yellow waist sash as was the local decorum to visit it, spying from there that there certainly appeared however to be a few early bird tourists in the neighbouring compound.


The Panca Yadnya, the 5 main ceremonies of Balinese Hinduism were thus explained:

Dewa Yadnya - Dedicated to god and all his manifestations.
Pitra Yadnya - To purify the souls of ancestors.
Manusa Yadnya - The ceremony of the human being.
Rsi Yadnya - Dedicated to saints and priests.
Bhuta Yadnya - To neutralise evil spirits.

These are caried out according to the Balinese calendar, referred to as the "Wuku and Saka" calendar, designed to harmonise the relationship between god and man, men unto men, and man to his environment. The Dewa Yadnya for example had varying interpretations in turn, performed upon the opening of a temple, also every 210 days ie. annually according to the Saka calendar, then subsequently every 5 years, every 100 years. Presumably the latter dates are more grandiose and the centennial must be a humdinger of a party. The calendar was further explained as consisting of auspicious and unfavourable days over a period of 30 weeks (Wuku), a grid of 7 by 30 squares being portrayed on paintings or small wooden carvings, used to predicate the precise nature of every day of the year. These might be referred to for example to select a suitably good date for a wedding. The smaller wooden carved examples used abstract symbolism but one large excellent depiction showed at random pixels of people tending crops, performing crafts or images of demonic figures. There were depictions of everything from fighting the devil to cutting hair. A similarly checked pictorial astrological calendar only prescribed 35 days.

"Lontar" books were revealed to be Balinese legends including the Indian Hindu classics printed with incisions on palm leaf, cut into half metre length strips akin to rulers. There were also miniature models of the crematiion ceremony and strangely the Tooth Filing ceremony (or diod they mean filling?!). It was explained that the cremation ceremony entails returning the body to Panca Maha Butha, an interesting revelation with medieval overtones, referring as it did to the elements of Earth, Fire, Air, Water and Ether. The body is elevated in a tall pagoda for ritual burning with a large bull figurine placed adjacent.

Idolatory included dragon figures, a bull with deities Siwa and Durga upon its back, as well as offering plates and pots for holy water. Numerous deity figures varied enormously in their representation and adjacent were some massive examples of Barong, monstrous or ghostly effigies perhaps 11 feet high made of a bamboo frame, I had to presume that someone danced within its cage. There were swathes of scary face masks and what was remarkably similar to the whole ensemble of a Chinese dragon dance epic, also screen puppets.

The fantastical Tooth Filing ceremony was then related to reduce "Sadripu", 6 enemies believed to exist within the huiman self, thoser being Greed, Pride, Vanity, Short Temperdness, Sadism and what were described as "Frame People", presumably they meant traitors. It was a bonus to then overhear a guide say that he was 17 when he had his doine, something of an initiation into manhood one might presume then. Moving on to a section on dance, highly importanty in balinese culture, I learned that traditional dances had evolved to maturity during the Majapahit era, split into 3 categories. wali dances were reserved for ritual ceremonies, Bebali dances semi sacred corresponding to lesser ceremony, and the Bali Balihan were secular, designed for entertainment.

Outside a small cannon was unusually marked with the raised lettering LITTLE, TOT, and I had to presume that it was the Brits who had decided that cannons could be cute. Comprising a series of small traditionally styled outbuildings, the thatched roof villas donated by 5 of the local kingdoms were overshadowed by the overindulgence of variously monstrous or deity like statues and relief carvings, with each of the many gateways being crowned by ornate high tiers. Though there were a few tourists around it wasnt mobbed as one might have expected on such a popular island, a fact rather qualified by the museum itself being much smaller a limited in scope than I had imagined despite its excellent presentation. Building work in one of the larger blocks perhaps typified my poor luck when it came to such matters, the all important historical section was destined to remain a mystery.

Posted by andyhay2 00:00 Archived in Indonesia

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