BALI CULTURE INFORMATION

 

 
 
The Island Of Bali, Indonesia

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THE HIGH PRIESTS AND THE BRAHMANIC
RITUAL

As conclusion, we find that the amazing conglomerate of traditions, beliefs, and philosophies that together constitute the, Balinese religion, one that is as complex and tangled as can be found anywhere today, alone is the most powerful motivating force to the entire life of the island. Our knowledge of Bali is as young as the history of its contacts with the West, and a good deal will have to be unravelled before we can have a clear picture of that unique product of tropical Asia, the character of the Balinese, which is reflected in the fantastic interpretation of religious ideas from India, China, and Java.

These were at times assimilated with a sense of practical logic, at times obviously,, misunderstood; but the result was a healthy and thoroughly Balinese manner of belief. Despite Hinduistic deviations, religious symbols and ideas retained much of their original, primitive simplicity, and fanaticism and idolatry did not overshadow the ancient animist worship of nature and of the elements.

Whatever the source of these ideas may be, the Balinese worship the sun, the earth, and water as sources of life-giving. fertility; fire is a purifying element. The sea receives offering once a year in a great feast in Lebih on the Gianyar coast. Also sources of fertility, and the dwellings of the gods, are the mountains, which are venerated in every temple and private shrine. The highest mountain, the Gunung Agung, is the navel, the focal point of their world.

A cult in itself has developed around the planting, growing, and harvesting of rice; old banyan trees are seen with respect, and many contain a little altar among the maze of their aerial roots where passing people leave offerings. Once a year all food vegetation, and coconut trees in particular, have a feast in their honour; they are given offerings and each tree is " dressed up " with a gay skirt and a scarf. We have seen that wood for house posts must be erected in " correct " position, the way the tree grew and not " upside down."

Not everyone can cut down a tree; specialists are called because they know the formulas and the magic to be performed after a tree is felled (placing a small green bough in the stump) to prevent the tree spirit from taking revenge, making the cutter lose his hair or be reincarnated in a prematurely bald-headed person. It would be dangerous for a person who is sebel (spiritually unclean) to climb trees. Everywhere there are temples dedicated to the nameless spirits of the mountains, of the sea, of old caves, ancient trees, lakes, springs, and even shapeless stones and other inanimate objects.

Although invisible and elusive, the gods of the Balinese are not unlike living human beings; they can be invited to dwell on this earth, to visit the temples and homes, when they are received as honoured guests with music, banquet food, and entertainment. They are not opposed to coming in contact with ordinary mortals, and to help them they often take part themselves in the ceremonies. But the gods are worshipped only in spirit and nowhere are their images or representations considered as holy in themselves unless it is supposed they are temporarily occupying them.

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