The Island Of Bali, Indonesia



The ultimate stage of perfection in the evolution of man on this earth, from the Balinese point of view, is to reach the Brahmana caste and to be ordained as a pedanda human being, to warrior, statesman, scholar, priest, and after death a god. Simply having reached this position, the highest during life in the long and arduous scale of evolution, endows pedandas with a magic character and justifies - in their own eyes at least - their superiority over all living men. .

Thus the high priests are, to the Balinese, extraordinary beings who, by their caste, knowledge, systematic preparation, and old age, are immune in handling the dangerous secret formulas of the higher ritual. An ordinary person, unprepared and not possessing the capacity to store the necessary surcharge of magic energy, would be destroyed, blown out like a weak fuse under a high charge of electricity, should he attempt to use this magic to control the unseen forces.

With the proper training, however, people of all castes may become priests; a common man can study to become a witch-doctor, for pemangku or for sunguhu, and a mystic prince with a vocation may become a resi, but only a Brahmana can be an authentic pedanda. Although the low-caste priests control the ordinary temple and community ritual, have direct dealings with the ancestors, and are able to intimidate demons with formulas of their own, they are restricted to officiating for people within or below their caste, while the Brahmanic priests serve all those who can afford their fees.

The pedandas still exert a powerful influence on Balinese life despite the fact that their relations with the people were never intimate; they represent the law, and the judges of the high native courts (raadkerta) are still pedandas in the majority. They purify persons or dwellings, bless people after illness or accident, and can avert curses or spells. On account of their knowledge of the calendar they must be consulted every time it is necessary to determine the exact lucky or unlucky date on which to begin or to which to postpone a significant undertaking.

Mountain people ignore them entirely, but they are essential to all ceremonies of the nobility, and even the poorest commoner will make great sacrifices to be able to call a pedanda to officiate at his private affairs, particularly at cremations, to assure his deal-: ones of the correct send-off into the nether world. To use the services of a pedanda is a luxury that brings social prestige.

A pedanda's life is strictly regimented and full of prohibition. We visited occasionally the good-natured, sociable pedanda of Sidan, who often remarked with a deep sigh of regret that the life of a priest was a difficult one because he had always to think of the gods. At lunch in his house, when he had a goose " cut " in our honour, he condescended to eat with us, but had to sit at a higher level, " otherwise the gods would not like it." With a grand disdainful gesture he threw a few grains of rice at the hungry dogs that surrounded us, explaining that he had to share his food with these evil spirits in disguise; then he proceeded to enumerate the many taboos he had to observe when eating: he could not sit at a public eating-place or eat in the market; he ate facing east and not until he had made his morning prayers.

Beef, pork, and food from offerings were forbidden to him and he could not touch alcohol. Under no circumstances could he walk under dirty water. He was fat and old and lie loved to ride in motor-cars, but since so many drain-pipes have been built recently at high points over the roads to connect the ricefields, he encountered great difficulties when travelling by motor-car. Every time he came to a pipe the car stopped. He stepped out and climbed to the top with great effort, to come down panting on the other side.

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Seminyak Bali Private Villa