Bali seen through the eyes of artists

The history of contemporary Bali  dates back to the 17th century when all the Hindus living on Java had to emigrate in order not to be converted into Islam. With time passing by Balinese Hinduism has become an absolutely dominating religion on the island and thus has been shaping its culture. Local art is characterized by rich ornamentation reflecting the Hindu influence. Balinese people live in harmony with nature and their gods so plants and animals adornments can be seen everywhere. Modern artists present Bali not only as an island of gods and the cradle of peaceful village life, but also as a place invaded by tourists.

Discover already discovered

Frankly speaking, it is hard to say what is more alluring in Bali: spectacular beaches or rich culture. Most of us claim Bali to be so famous, popular and well-known that nothing new and astonishing can be discovered here. Well, that’s dead wrong. This is an enigmatic and undervalued island full of mystery. Only its fabulous beaches are of the utmost importance. They are fully appreciated and used by tourists. As far as culture is concerned the situation is a bit different. It seems that everyone knows where to go and what to see but are they able to catch sight of all that is hidden deep in magnificent buildings? What is it like to discover already discovered and to get to know already known? What is it like to lose yourself in the depth of culture and history of this island? Where to start and where to finish?

Unique Bali

Penglipuran is one of the most beautiful and utterly unique villages in Bali. You can see some amazing traditional architecture here. Every single house is the same size and is divided into three parts. The houses are entered through arched gates, fully ornamented. The time has stopped in this village many centuries ago. You feel like in a different world. When visiting this place you are welcomed by friendly residents who willingly show you around the compound. Moreover, you can get more experience by trekking through the bamboo jungle. This is a very quiet, nice and comfortable area.

Bat Temple

It is a common stop for tourists and locals who are on their way and want to stop to give offerings and pray. That temple complex is built around the entrance to a cave that is a shelter to countless bats. That’s why it is called ‘Goa Lawah’, the  ‘Bat Cave’. Morning is a good time to witness many locals who come for their prayers. It is a busy place because of its location, easy access and popularity. It is believed to have been created around 1007 by an Indonesian saint.

Cockfighting

It is another Balinese tradition that is not known worldwide. Of course there are so many cockfighting all over Indonesia, Philippines and other parts of the Earth, that it can be easily said that those fights take part all over the world. In Indonesia they have been prohibited for almost 30 years, but still remain illegal source of incomes and a kind of a holy ritual. Cocks fight with spurs that are called ‘tadji’ in Bali. According to the tradition the spurs should be sharpened only by full moon and women shouldn’t see them. Spurs also mustn’t be touched by those who are in a time of grief. The fights of those birds are really very cruel and bloody so not everyone watches  them emotionless. However it still remains a very important element of Balinese tradition and is deeply rooted in it.

Balinese dance

There is an inseparable link between Balinese culture and dance. The history of the dance goes many centuries back and there has always been a close relationship with Hindu rituals, mythology and religion. First of all dance invokes the gods, greets and entertains them. That is why facial expressions and movement are crucial. Even dancers’ eye movement has an influence on performance’s perception. Dance is a story. Every  single one reflects other tale, they all have different plot and message. It is impossible express what such a performance looks like. No proper words in any language exist to express it. The performance itself is as its plot is: diverse, flourish, colorful, full of emotions both positive and negative. It is absolutely breathtaking.

Balinese tradition of cremation of corpses

‘Ngaben’ is rooted deep in Balinese tradition. It is a part of Hindu funeral ceremony. According to their beliefs cremation serves to free the soul of the deceased and helps to reach its final destination where the soul has to wait for reincarnation. The date of the event is announced in the village. While preparing the corpse the family is saying goodbye to the deceased. Next by sounds of the ‘gamelan’ music and chants the coffin is moved to the place of burning. The ceremony is really worth being seen. Another part of the Balinese culture and tradition that cannot be described by words.

Balinese culture

Bali is awesome and unique. It can delight us with one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and exclusive, distinct  tradition. Despite being so commonly known, Balinese culture still remains shrouded in the touch of mystery, still full of understatements and ambiguity still worth being learned and discovered.

About author:

Sebastian

Information technology architect, loving expeditions in the wilderness of Indonesia.

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