BALI CULTURE INFORMATION

 

 
 
The Island Of Bali, Indonesia

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THE HIGH PRIESTS AND THE BRAHMANIC
RITUAL

There is still another holy water of limited power that gives .mortality, the toya amreta or amerta, which is, however, reserved exclusively for the gods. In relation to this elixir of imortality there is a legend that gives the cause of eclipses: "The mon Kala Rahu came once, out of curiosity, to take a peek at heaven; there he saw a vessel of amreta and, thinking himself observed, stole it and tried to drink from it.

But Wisnu saw him and with a single blow cut off the demon's head. Kala Rahu had taken one drink in his mouth, but did not have time swallow it, so his body died, but his head continued to live, and now, as revenge, he swallows the sun and the moon, producing the eclipses. Thus when an eclipse occurs, the Balinese are frightened and they all go out of their houses to make all the noise possible, beating kulkuIs, tin cans, drums, and gongs to frighten away the bodyless head of Kala Rahu and free the threatened sun or moon.

The religious service of the pedandas, the maweda, consists .the recitation of the mantras, the magic formulas, accompanied by ritual actions and significant gestures of the hands and fingers (mudra) to give a physical emphasis to the spoken word Through concentration culminating in a trance, the priest comes the deity itself, entering the body of the priest and and acting through it to consecrate the water and emanate divine vibrations.

A performance of maweda by an able priest is one of the m, beautiful sights in Bali. Such finished training, such showmanship, enters into its execution, and the hand gestures of t priest are so thoroughly imbued with rhythm and beauty, that the maweda is more than a simple prayer; it is a whole spectacle pantomimic dance of the hands. I have once seen a revealing film of a Nepalese Buddhist priest dancing with his entire body while he recited Sanskrit mantras and performed the symbolical hand gestures, and I have wondered if this was not the origin of the great art of Balinese dancing.

Volumes have been written on the hand expression of the Hindus; The Mirror of Gesture commaraswami is already a classic; the beautiful hands of Indian, Tibetan, Chinese, and Indonesian Buddhist statues and frescoes are well known, and in Java we find the statues of the Buddha of Borobudur in the positions of the mudras. De Kat Angelino in his Mudras gives us the most thorough study up to date the Balinese maweda, painstakingly illustrated by Tyra de Kleen Only a moving picture, however, could give an idea of its eerie beauty.

The most important activity in the everyday life of the pedandas is the performance of a domestic maweda, done every morning and on an empty stomach. Every fifth day (klion) and on days of full and new moons, the maweda is essential and more complete, with the full regalia of important occasions.

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