Bali is known for its richness of culture and the beauty of its nature. There is no other place like Bali in this world. The island of thousand temples offers great beaches complete with its world-class wave for surfing, stunning views of its natural sites to explore, many unique traditional ceremonies are held here every year for you to see, and of course many talented Balinese artists.
Visiting Bali will be a great experience for tourists, but it can be greater if you know some most important things about this island before visiting it. Here are 15 Most Important Things You Should Know About Bali.
The majority of Balinese people are Hindu, it is around 90% of the population are considered as Hindu Bali (A mixed between Hinduism from India and Local Customs). Hinduism is thought to have arrived in some parts of the archipelago (Indonesia) as early as the 1st century and its influence spread, accumulating aspects of Buddhist and local belief system as it went, and reaching Bali by at least the 9th century. In the 15th century, priests from the collapsing Javanese Hindu Majapahit Empire retreated to the island and began to establish the network of temples that stands today. Once in Bali, Hinduism also merged with much older animist and shamanist beliefs.
Ngaben, also known as Pitra Yadnya, Plebon or cremation ceremony, is the Hindu funeral ritual of Bali, Indonesia. Ngaben is performed to release the soul of a dead person so that it can enter the upper realm where it can wait for it to be reborn or become liberated from the cycles of rebirths. The Balinese Hindu theology holds that there is a competition between evil residents of the lower realm to capture this soul, and a proper cremation enhances the chance that it may reach the upper realm.
The majority of Bali’s dearly departed split the material world on a pyre, their ashes and bones later swept together to be taken to the ocean and scattered. The families of the wealthy and highly respected can muster enough money to labor for preparations to begin almost immediately, elaborate biers soon glitter with gold leaf and brocade. Ordinary people have to wait for banjar’s turn during the dry season and may have to be buried temporarily and later exhumed for their moment in the flames.
Banjar is a legal community unit that has territorial boundaries that are authorized to regulate and manage the interests of local communities, based on local origins and customs that are recognized and respected in the Government of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia.
In the mountain range area, the characteristic of banjar membership is limited only to those who were born in the banjar territory. Whereas in the plain area the banjar membership is open to the public and not limited. The people from other places and who happened to stay in the banjar are welcomed to join the banjar if they want to. The center of the banjar is Bale Banjar (Banjar Hall), when the members of the banjar held a meeting in a certain day, usually on Sunday. Banjar is led by a Kelian Banjar, the members elect him as the leader of the banjar for a certain period of duty.
Aside from Balinese culture and tradition, you might never know that Bali has an alcoholic traditional drink, called Arak Bali. This kind of traditional alcoholic drink can be easily found in Bali. Usually, you can buy it in small warung or cafes in Balinese villages, towns, and even big tourism spots, like Sanur and Ubud.
Arak is a colorless alcoholic drink distilled from rice or palm flowers and comes in many qualities. The alcohol percentage ranges from 20 to 50% and you can find arak in everything from fancy bottles with golden logos to plastic bag tied with a knot. Arak is usually served with special dishes for adults, also served at various ceremonies including funerals, weddings, and other Balinese ceremonies. In fact, liquor production in Indonesia is prohibited, in Bali, Arak is also produced for religious ceremonies as part of offerings, especially those dedicated to demons.
Cockfights, which in Balinese are known as tajen, meklecan or ngadu, are required at temple and purification (mecaru) ceremonies. No one knows when they started. The Tabuh Rah ritual to expel evil spirits always has a cockfight to spill the blood. Tabuh Rah Literally means pouring blood. There are ancient texts disclosing that the ritual has existed for centuries. Each fight is treated equally and as soon as one fight ends, men looking for a suitable match for the next. They try to match cocks of equal ability for a good fight. The fight should be unpredictable. If there is an imbalance, the spur on the stronger bird is adjusted slightly to give him a handicap.
At the pinnacle of Bali’s calendar of religious festivities is Galungan, a time every 210 days when the ancestors descend from heaven to be entertained by the living before departing again 10 days later in a ceremony known as kuningan. On the day before Galungan, each household gets busy making and erecting a penjor, a gracefully tapering, towering bamboo pole, decorated with tassels and a single woven bauble nodding from its tip. During this holiday period, the graves of family members yet to be cremated are also visited and presented with offerings.
The roaming street dogs of Bali are as much a part of the Bali landscape as the incense offerings outside every shop or the old vodka bottles used for petrol. Unlike most other parts of the archipelago where they are either reviled or stewed, here dogs are kept as pets. Bali dogs, a distinct breed whose closest relative is the Australian dingo, are renowned for their intelligence and independence. ‘Bali dog’ is also the politically correct term for the stray dogs of Bali, and they often get a pretty bad wrap. That they are sexually promiscuous rabies carriers who take to the streets at night to brawl. What you have to understand is that they didn’t choose the street life, the street life chose them. Love em’ or hate em’, you’re not in town long before they’re on your radar.
The smell of incense or dupa, is an important feature of the full sensory experience of Bali. But although it may have a secondary benefit of focusing the mind while disguising some of the less savory smells of the tropics, its primary function occurs in a combination with prayers and offerings, the ascending streams of fragrant smoke helping to relay their sentiments to heaven.
Joged is a style of dance from the Island of Bali. The term Joged or Joget is also a common word for dance in Indonesia. The dance is typically accompanied by a gamelan ensemble of bamboo instruments called a gamelan joged bumbung. Balinese Joged dance is not a religious and ritual one, it is a social dance for entertainment purposes only. Often included as part of the entertainment at parties, festivals, and ceremonies, the joged offers members of the audience the chance to strut their stuff with professional dancers. Hip swaying, eyelash fluttering young women, who choose their partners with the aid of a scarf they drape around the necks of likely looking men. Some try to match the dancer’s elegance. Others are content to act the buffoon.
The most distinctly Balinese dish is this mixture of finely chopped meat, most commonly pork, coconut, vegetables, herbs, and spices. Sometimes the animal’s blood is also mixed in to give flavor and color. No important ceremony is without it and on the eve of Galungan, for example, men will stay up through the night and into the cool early hours of the morning to prepare it then eat it shortly afterward, it doesn’t keep.
The first day of the Balinese new-year according to the lunar Saka calendar is celebrated in silence, confinement, fasting, and meditation. No traffic plies the street or skies, all work and other activity is forbidden, no fires are to be lit and, over the course of the dark, new moon night, no lights are permitted. Squad of Pecalang, the religious police, patrol the streets to ensure everyone is observing the curfew and its associated restrictions.
Ranging from a few grains of rice on a square of banana leaf, to elaborate arrangement of fruits, flowers, meats, and animal sacrifices, whether to give thanks, appease, protect, cleanse, or exorcise, the sheer quantity and variety of offerings or banten has been a constant source of wonder for visitors to the island for centuries. No wonder the name Bali is said to come from the Sanskrit word for sacrifice or offering.
At the cataclysmic end of Bali’s resistance to foreign domination was the ritual of all-out fights at the war done by only 3 kingdoms in Bali during the 19th – 20th century. First at Badung in what is now Denpasara ahead of the rapidly advancing Dutch expeditionary forces in 1906. Then at Klungkung in 1908. The much earlier defeat of the north coast kingdom of Buleleng by the Dutch in 1894 had similarly resulted in a puputan.
Subak is the water management (irrigation) system for paddy fields on Bali island, Indonesia which was developed in the 9th century. For the Balinese, irrigation is not simply providing water for the plant’s roots, but water is used to construct a complex, pulsed artificial ecosystem. One of the most ancient continuously operating democratic systems in the world, the subak regulates the supply of water for wet rice irrigation via a complex network of canals and aqueducts from the mountain lakes to the sea. Matching computational and organizational prowess with intricate agricultural and environmental knowledge and collective will, the subak is truly one of the island’s greatest wonders.
Rice is the life-blood of Bali. It permeates every aspect of Balinese culture and has for at least two thousand years. The current system of Subak Irrigation has been in use for at least 1000 years. This system is much more than a simple agriculture tradition, it is a tradition that is simultaneously spiritual and communal; deeply ingrained with Balinese culture. The very social structure within Bali is infused by this ancient tradition. You could even say that rice is Bali. Balinese people often say, eating without rice won’t make their stomach full, so they really need it.
Udeng Bali is a headband worn by the Balinese for prayer and for traditional rituals and customs. Udeng is not merely a headband, but also embodies a philosophy. Its right side is taller than its left side, suggesting the kneeling of humans in accordance with the darma yakti dharma on the right side and the adharma on the opposing left. In response to tourism’s development in Indonesia, and Bali in particular, and as part of the emerging market for tourism-related merchandising, udeng has become the visitors’ favorite souvenir, often purchased as proof that they have been to Bali.
Udeng comes in different colors and is worn primarily according to traditional usage. White udeng is reserved for religious ceremonies or prayer and symbolizes purity of heart. Black udeng is only worn at funerals, while batik udeng is worn at a social activity such as town meetings or other traditional events. Red udeng and other colors are worn by Balinese gamelan musicians and dancers as well as by fashionably creative teenagers during the gong kebyar festival.
Controlling the island’s climate and rainfall and responsible for its fertility, the north-eastern interior of Bali is dominated by a cluster of volcanic peaks, two of which are active. The massive outer caldera of Batur contains a lake, an ideal climate for fruit and vegetable growing and a number of villages, at over 3,000 meters, the mighty mount Agung further east, is the tallest and island’s focal point.
Some claim that the history of yoga in Bali dates back centuries, even thousands of years. This seems highly unlikely. Hindu-Buddhist teachings related to yoga and meditation may have arrived from around the 8th century but there is no compelling account. It has nevertheless become for some visitors a significant feature of their Balinese experience. Tourists who practice Yoga in Bali will have a holistic experience in the treatment process. The mind, body, and soul will unite and ultimately give effect to peace for someone. Through a Yoga session, tourists will know their potential that is still closed and will turn it into a new hope later.
The concept of spiritual possession exists in many religions, including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and African traditions. Depending on the cultural context in which it is found, possession may be considered voluntary or involuntary and to have beneficial or detrimental effects.
To the uninitiated, Balinese trance behavior might appear to be a strange and unaccountable paradox. We see a people who value dignity, decorum, and deliberateness seeking a state of psychological dissociation in which they perform obscene acts such as devouring live chicks and attacking themselves with daggers. We witness them losing control with outbursts of random violence; describing the whole experience as “delicious”. Trance is a culturally valuable trait in Bali, and is an important shamanistic virtue. Once possessed by a spirit the entranced medium speaks with the spirit’s voice, giving instructions for ceremonies, finding lost objects or helping the body to heal.
Rangda is a very important figure in Balinese mythology and healing traditions. She is the dramatic manifestation of the Goddess of the underworld, Durga and is the demon queen of the Leyaks. Leyaks are ghost-like figures in Bali mythology that appear as humans during the day but at night their heads and entrails break free from their bodies and fly around cemeteries and villages.
Rangda, is the term from ancient high Balinese and the old Javanese language, Kawi, which means ‘widow’. Rangda is the female embodiment of divine negative energy. As much as the artwork in Bali, the Rangda mask is layered with symbolism. The large protruding eyes represent anger, cruelty, and self-centeredness. The long white boar-like fangs remind us she is a merciless wild beast. And her meter-long blood-red tongue of fire represents her eternal insatiable hunger.
Credit to: Heyho Holidays
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