The Island Of Bali, Indonesia



Balinese Temples. Perhaps the aboriginal form of Balinese temple was a square of consecrated ground in which were erected sacrificial altars, piles of stones, surrounded by a rough stone fence. Temples of this. sort are still to be found in Tenganan and Sembiran, two villages that. preserve much of the ancient religion.

There are temples along the coast in the vicinity of Sanur reminiscent of these primitive temples, like the one on the beach of Sindu that consists of rough pieces of coral in shapless piles, with a number of primitive statues as the sole decoration. the owners afterwards added shrines of dressed stone; then lately, to be modern, they built altars of cement, resulting in what looks like an object lesson in the progress and evolution of Balinese temple architecture.

There is a strong Polynesian flavour in these primitive temples. Ralph Linton (Ethnology of Polynesia and Micronesia, The Field Museum Chicago) says:

" In the Cook groups the temples were usually stone closures or platforms often without houses. . . . In the Society group . . . they were low walled enclosures with a platform or pyramid at ( end. . . . In the Marquesas there were two sorts of temples, the public ones . . . and the mortuary stone platforms which bore houses . . that had excessively high roofs so that the early writers often refer - them as obelisks. In Hawaii . . . the most important temples were at stone walled enclosures containing a number of houses for the priests and images. . . . None of the images or objects symbolizing the gods seem to have been considered divine in themselves. They were simple bodies which the gods could occupy at will."

These striking similarities between the Balinese and Polynesian religious spirits extend into the cult.

The Bali Aga, who were never subjected to the political and religious influence of the Javanese lords, build great austere temples with peculiar. Features such as the little bridge (titi gonggang), a stone placed over a hole directly in front of the temple gate, over which can pass only the " pure " - the gods and the virgin boys and girls of the village. Interesting also are the divisions of the Bali Aga communities: first into two great groups, right and left, each with its priests; then into four separate groups that meet in representative halls built in the temple: the married men who sit in council at the bale agung; the married women who sit in the bale loh; and the adolescent boys and girls with their special clubouses, the bale truna and the bale daha.

In Bali Aga villages the bale agung is still the heart of the political and religious life of the community and great bale agungs can always be seen in the first courtyard of their temples. Most striking examples of such temples are in Taro in the Gianyar mountains, where the largest and the most beautiful bale agung in Bali is to be found, and in Trunyan on the shores of Lake Batur.
North Balinese temples depart considerably from the normal structure of the Southern temples already described. They are built on the-slope of a hill with the temple proper placed on the highest part in a curious ascendant tendency, culminating in high monuments of carved stone reached by successive flights of stairs.

Typical- is the Pura Medrwe Karang, the " temple of the Owner of the Land " in Kubutambahan. Here steps lead into a wide, totally empty court, and more steps give access into the second court, the temple proper. In this court there are only two small bales for offerings, one on each side of a great monumental stone base consisting of three wide platforms strongly reminiscent of a pyramid. In this temple the essential little shrines of South Balinese temples do not exist; instead, the pyramid is surmounted by a great padu raksa, the great gate of other temples, with a stone throne, a padmasana, in place of the customary doorway. On each side of the padii raksa are two god houses with roofs of sugarpalm fibre. There is, besides, a great split gate, tjandi bentar, but instead of serving as the outer entrance to the temple, it is built over the second platform of the pyramid, directly in front of the central monument.

There are no merus in North Balinese temples, and many of the most important elements of the Southern temples are lacking. It is usual, however, to find the padmasana, the throne of the sun-god, the split gate, and the great monumental gate occupying a place and with a function quite different from those in other Balinese temples. It seems as if the North Balinese adopted these features of the temples with a curiously distorted point of view.

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Seminyak Bali Private Villa