BALI CULTURE INFORMATION

 

 
 
The Island Of Bali, Indonesia

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RITES AND FESTIVALS

SOCIETY AND RELIGION

In that instant an old woman attendant stiffened and became possessed, followed by the pemangku, who also fell into a trance. They both danced like somnambulists, the Nyoman with closed eyes, the pemangku staring wildly and holding an incense brazier in his hands, in this manner leading the carriers of the artjas into the temple.

Inside, they stood in the middle of the lamplit court, and the gamelan played a dance theme; elderly women began to dance a Solemn mendet (or gabor) , one holding a bottle with a carved spout, another with a piece of banana leaf folded like a spoon containing arak (rice brandy) , a third performing intricate steps balancing miraculously on her head a brazier filled with glowing coals. They danced back and forth from one end of the court to the artjas, each time pouring holy water and arak on the ground in front of the deities.

At intervals a group of young girls walked forth with silver platters containing offerings and deposited little trays of palm-leaf with food and flowers (tjanan) , samples from the large offerings, on the floor, while the pemangku fanned their essence in the direction of the gods.Only a few people witnessed the ceremony because the majority were outside watching a play. Throughout the night mediums went into a trance and became possessed by the spirits of the djero Taksu, the " interpreter " of the deities, in order to inform the people if the offerings had been well received and to obtain advice from the gods.

The medium was the pemangku himself, going into convulsions, rolling his eyes, and foaming at the mouth as the spirit of the Taksu entered his body, making incoherent guttural sounds which were taken as the voice of the spirit. Once I saw a pemangku become possessed by the spirit of some sort of tiger, growling and running on all fours in the temple yard under exploding firecrackers, picking up fire with his hands and eating the sparks.

The medium came out of the trance painfully, and in an epileptic fit, as the spirit left his body. Gradually he calmed down, got up exhausted, and was helped out of the temple. The crowd remained divided, watching the performances or talking in groups outside the temple, not much interested in the ceremonies or in the spectacular trances. Often. especially at the feasts of the death temples, they performed savage kris dances, which will be described later.


In Kengetan the gong played all night the stately, ancient music, and as dawn approached the old pemangku moved around quietly supervising things, putting out the lights and preparing for the final ceremony, the adoration of the rising sun, when mendet was danced again by middle-aged women and offerings were dedicated in the direction of the first rays of sun that appeared on the horizon. This ended the feast, and by morning, when the essence of the offerings had been consumed by the gods, the women came to collect their respective offerings and take them home.

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