BALI CULTURE INFORMATION

 

 
 
The Island Of Bali, Indonesia

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THE HIGH PRIESTS AND THE BRAHMANIC
RITUAL

A pcdanda marries, generally only once, a woman of his own caste, who becomes automatically a priestess (pedanda istri) , who must help her husband in the ritual and who may herself officiate on certain occasions. High priests do not observe sexual abstinence, although it is recommended in the scriptures. Ancestrv is one of their great concerns, and the standing of the various Brahmanic families is determined by their purity of lineage.

Balinese Brahmanas all claim descent from the mythical Wau Rauh, the highest priest of Madjapahit, who in coming to Bali took wives from the various castes. His descendants established themselves at various places in Bali and founded the Brahmanic clans we find today, from the purer Kamenuh, to the Keniten, Gelgel, Nuaba, Mas, Kayusunia, Andapan, and so forth.

Pedandas should dedicate their entire life to meditation, the study of theology, and the practice of the ritual. During life they are supposed to be models of knowledge, purity of thought and of actions, but unfortunately this is not always the case and, as everywhere else, there are priests who take advantage of their position and by their mysterious hocus-pocus exploit the people. In Bali, however, this occurs on a considerably smaller scale than in countries dominated by an organized clergy. The Brahmanas jealously keep the inner knowledge of the official religion for themselves and the common people believe in them, but continue to regard them, like their princes, as foreigners aloof from the true life of Bali.

The Brahmanic priesthood is today divided into two great groups: the Siwaites (siwa or siwa sidanta) , and the so-called Buddhists (bodda) ; not true followers of Siwa and of the Buddha, but simply sectarian divisions of the same religion. The pedanda siwa wears his hair long, tied in a knot on the top of his head, while the pedanda bodda has his cut shoulder-length; otherwise their office and ritual are the same with only small differences in detail, in phraseology, and in the texts used by each.

To the average Balinese this division means so little that he will call a priest of either sect to officiate for him regardless of whether he is siwa or bodda, simply because of personal preference or family tradition or because the priest's house may be nearer. To him two priests of two sects are undoubtedly more effective than one, but this is an expensive luxury that only the princes can afford. The present Regent of Gianyar always engaged both a pedanda siwa and a pedanda bodda, who sat side by side

. He went even further and had also a Satria priest, a resi, and a sunguhu to take care of the evil spirits, so that every sort of priest was represented. In Badung I have seen ceremonies with nine priests officiating, one for each of the cardinal points.


From India the Brahmanic priests inherited a good portion of the sacred Sanskrit writings of the Hindus, such as portions of the Vedas, called in Bali Weda, containing the most powerful secret formulas for the private use of the priests; the Brahmanda-Purana, a treatise on cosmogony, mythology, and mythic
chronology; and the Tuturs, the doctrinal writings of the pedandas. In this manner the priests preserved the knowledge of Sanskrit, the really sacred language of Bali, which is, however, only known by the name of sloka, the metre in which Sanskrit works are written. The learning of Sanskrit is kept a secret among the priests and should not be confused with the Kawi, which is only the classic language of poetry, well knowe to the nobility and to scholars in general.

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