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Ceremonies Create Connection

Balinese Hindus observe the state laws of Indonesia and also the complex traditional guidelines (adat or Desa Pekraman) which govern cultural and religious life according to the Desa (place), Kala (time), Patra (condition).

Balineses are competitive as anyone around schooling, business and career. However in cultural and religious activities, Balinese are highly cooperative. Few cultural or religious activities can be carried out alone.

bali ceremony

Men, women and communities work together to create the colorful ceremonies of family, temple and public life.

A family ceremony-such as blessing a new house - new baby or marriage – will involve extended family and immediate neighbors. The whole village or neighboring villages cooperate in the more elaborate temple ceremonies – perhaps providing Pesantian (Balinese choir), Gamelan (gong orchestra) or ceremonial dancers.

Sacred Barong groups travel to perform ngelawang – blessing homes, rice fields and villages.
Major ceremonies, such as inaugurating a new temple or priest, must be witnessed by other village leaders, government officials or even the President of Indonesia – who has witnessed centennial ceremonies at Mother Temple Besakih. Even cremations often happen communally with many families working together to create elaborate towers and effigies to be burned.

Ceremonies foster financial reciprocity and circulate energy. Money spent on supplies, clothes and food creates work and business.

The custom of Ngejot means that people feed their neighbors as part of their event; their friends and family bring envelopes of money to help with the expense. The villagers provide rice, coconuts, incense, sugar, coffee, colorful cloth and ceremonial decorations for temples. In return, they receive special food such as lawar or sate.

Some ceremonies include entertainment with music, story, dance, even satirical comedy, so communities laugh, as well as pray together.

Thus ceremonies connect people not only to their gods, but also to each other. Balinese understand that they will need the support of their family and community in the future. So it is important to maintain harmonious relationship now. Despite the modernization and individuality we see at many levels, in their hearts Balinese people support the concept of Ajeg Bali – keeping their traditional communal culture alive and strong through sharing the preparation and performance of ceremonies that create connection.

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Why FISHERMEN Can Never Become Rich

Once upon a time, in the village of Kelaan, right on the southern peninsula of Bali, there lived a simple man by the name of Kamanjaya. Nature had endowed him generously with wide, well built shoulders and a good, strong chest. He sported a luxurious moustache and his seemingly fierce eyes reflected a brave and courageous soul. Kaman Jaya was the first fisherman ever on the island of Bali.

One day, Kaman Jaya received an invitation from the God Siwa, who, it was said, wished to bestow a blessing on his life. Similar invitations were also extended to all other early men and creatures on the surface of the earth.


Kamanjaya, a man of little means, but of pure heart, felt worried and anxious at the invitation of the god. "When I meet with Siwa in his heavenly chambers, what gift can I bring him that will be good enough to serve as a token of thanks for the blessing I no doubt am going to get in return?"

Finally, as he lived from the sea, he decided on making a present of a perahu (traditional boat) full of fish. The wind dropped dead, and by the time he was due to meet the god, he had barely landed back on the beach, his catch trailing along behind him. He was late.

When Siwa saw him arrive, he received him with harsh words. "Hey, you, Kaman Jaya," he burst out, "Why are you so late in coming to my call? All your fellow creatures have come and left".

"Oh, most gracious One," replied Kaman Jaya, "please forgive your humble servant. I went fishing so as to be able to bring a gift of fish for you."

Siwa sneered and dismissed him with these words: "Well, Kaman Jaya, because you are late, the blessing I now bestow to you will be shortened accordingly: your catch of fish will only feed you for a day and a night." With Siwa's words ringing in his ears, Kaman Jaya departed a forlorn man.

The following day, Kaman Jaya resumed his work as a fisherman. As he rowed his boat far out to sea, he saw a promontory which seemed to rise out from nowhere in the middle of it. It was a marvelous sight indeed to behold from a distance. Batu Dii was the name of this cliff. It is now known as Bedeeng. Begawan Beregu, a seer famous since the early days of Creation, had made his home there at the peak of this cliff and he kept busy cutting stones, which he secretly used in the building of a beautiful temple, which was to be present to the Lord.

Letting his gaze wander toward the top of the promontory, Kaman Jaya was fascinated at the spectacle of this old man busy at his work. He brought his boat closer to shore, wishing to witness the building of this wonderful temple. But it was not long before the old seer became aware of his being watched by a man. His secret was no more and, thus, he decided to destroy all he had built so far. So down went the intricately arranged pile of stone, tumbling into the sea below. As they hit the water, up jumped hundreds of fish into the boat of Kaman Jaya, who was overjoyed at what met his eyes.

Only then did Kaman Jaya hear the loud, ominous voice, thundering down the cliff: "Hey, Kaman Jaya, you, the first of fishermen, why did you spy on my work instead of fishing? Couldn't you work harder and respect my secret. Hear my curse: neither you nor all your descendants henceforth will ever become rich from fishing." Having told these words, Beregu left Batu Dii and headed southward. Consequently, he arrived at a tall promontory that rose from the sea. Seen from far away, it looks like a human head and is therefore called Uluwatu ( ulu=head, watu= stone ). It is there that he eventually build his temple, now one of the most famous of Bali.

Upon hearing the curse, Kaman Jaya chuckled. Didn't he have a whole boatload of fish? He then set off for home, revelling in his good fortune, so happy that he did not feel the scorching sun on his back. It is only when he pulled his boat to the shore and went to unload it that he understood to his dismay the weight of the old man's words. He slumped down on the sandy beach, gazing out into the sea with blank, empty eyes. There were no fish at all in his perahu! All the fish had transformed into stones.

From that day, Kaman Jaya began a daily struggle to make ends meet on his meager earnings as a fisherman. Thus the prophecy of Siwa was fulfilled that Kaman Jaya would only make enough to survive day by day and Beregu's curse that fisherman would never become rich.

Text by Jean Couteau

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