CULTURES IN CONTEXT
Bali: Ancient and Modern
9. Festivals : 104-118
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104. The Balinese calendar is based on the
movement of the seven visible planets. A year is 210 days in length, and
includes periods designated for particular festivities … comparable with
the religious holidays established in Christian countries. In Bali the
highlight of the year is the festival of Galungan, which lasts 10 days
and involves almost everybody, even today.
105. During this time spirits are believed
to come down to earth to join in the festivities. Gods sit on decorated
thrones in the temple. And the spirits of the village's ancestors
reoccupy the homes of their descendants.
106. It takes weeks to prepare for Galungan
and everyone, young and old, male and female, has something to do. Men
slaughter the animals and cook the meat.
107. Men also decorate the streets with penjors,
made from bamboo poles and palm leaves.
108. They prepare beautiful banners, known
as lamaks, outside each house. These are made from dark green sugar palm
leaves and yellow-green young coconut palm leaves.
109. They also build small shrines outside
every house -- so the spirits of their ancestors have somewhere to rest.
110. Women decorate their homes and gardens,
and prepare elaborate food offerings. Some are destined for family shrines
… others for village temples. Traditionally these offerings were
made at home, but in the larger towns today, they are sometimes bought
111. On the morning of the festival the streets
are lined with women heading for the temple… with offerings on their heads.
Everything is arranged beautifully so the gods will be pleased.
112. The sashes people wear around their waists
are a symbolic separation between good and evil. When praying they want
to be free of unworthy thoughts which come from the earth below, so they
can focus instead on the purer world above.
113. The outer courtyard of the temple will
have been used for cock-fighting the day before, and men will have placed
bets on each fight. Gambling is permitted at festivals because the shedding
of blood is (as in many religions) part of the process of purification
... and in Bali’s case a way to appease demon spirits.
114. Razor-sharp metal spurs are attached
to each cockerel and the birds are carefully groomed for their moment of
glory. With long knives like these, fights do not last long. The winner
lives to fight again: the loser is eaten
115. When they reach the temple the women
hand their offerings to the priest, who blesses each one … holding
it up in front of the gods (like "wave offerings" in the Bible) before
placing it on a table.
116. The women then kneel in prayer, and throw
flowers towards the shrines.
117. The priest will sprinkle them with holy
water, and his assistants will give them water to drink.
118. Later the women collect their offerings.
The gods, seemingly, will have by now consumed the essence, or spirit,
of the food waived in front of them. Instead of wasting the substance that
remains the women take it home for their family to eat … rather like a
Text, photos and recordings
by John Tyman
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