Widow Sacfrifices and other Suicides in Bali

It is a mistake to think that only bearded men with gleaming eyes seek ‘paradise’ by blowing themselves up in the middle of a crowd. Like it or not, Bali too has its own traditions of horror-inspired paradise seekers. Let us give it a look. Widows’ Sacrifice The most famous of these traditions relates to

Jean Couteau

Holy Offerings: The Real Life Practice of ‘Yadnya’

The Balinese Hindu believe that we can balance the spiritual, human and environmental through ‘yadnya’, the holy offerings. This is intimately intertwined with rituals and the instruments involved. An unusual dry season, flooding, water scarcity, air pollution, all of these are good reasons for a big ritual, often seen as a way to overcome the

Changing Caste and Clan in Bali

Traditionally the key element of the Balinese religion is not the Hindu gods, but the ancestors. It is to these ancestors that people address their daily prayers. Whenever sons create a new family in a new location, they set up a new family temple or sanggah. From here, they add successively from generation-to-generation: the sanggah

The Guardian of The Pura Taman Tukad Temple

Stuff happens, as people say. No one could have guessed that at first from Ni Nyoman Kerti. Like most other children of the village, she followed her mother’s steps and knew when and where to make offerings. As for the why, the reason was usually given even before she could raise the question: there were

Balinese “Pilgrims” on the Quest for Holy Water

Most religions of the world use water and fire as purificatory elements. Water cleans, soothes and fertilises, while fire heats, destroys, and thus cleans too. Water and fire are a part and a parcel of the rituals of religious life and, once in a while, of the political games of men of religion. Bali is

Everyday Plastic in Bali

I am one of the millions of human beings who contribute to destroying the environment. It sounds dramatic, but for me bringing my own container when I’m in suddenly in the mood for some street-side mung bean porridge is just such a hassle! So, I end up using their disposable plastic. When my stomach rumbles

The Dayus: The Brahmin Women of Days Past

The girl woke up and lifted her well-balanced shoulders. A watchful look came into her beautiful, Bambi eyes as an elderly woman of 70 or so approached her. “Enough is enough,” said the latter. “You’d better accept your fate! Don’t forget that you are a Dayu and that the choice of your husband is not

The House Spirits

The Balinese believe that every house has its own guardian spirits who live in a small shrine at the front gate called the Penunggun Karang. These are intended to repel negative auras or people that attempt to enter a home, be it the ‘seen’ or the ‘unseen’. If people with bad intentions enter a home,

Is This The End of The Ancestors’ Cult In Bali

The ancestors’ cult, for some reason, is deemed irrational. Is it for this reason that established religions are doing their best to eradicate it? Indonesia is a case in point, regarding both Islam and Balinese Hinduism. In Indonesian Islam, the main point of contention between the two principal Moslem organisations, Mohammadiah and Nadhadul Ulama, is

The Guardians of Bali’s Culture

Bali has been named one of the world’s top destinations several times now, but along with the tourist influx comes modernisation. Yet, amidst today’s modern Bali, where asphalted roads have taken over a good portion of rice fields, the sound of the traditional Gamelan music still echoes across the island, and the traditional sarong and

Origins of Time

The Story of the Origin of Time

Bali is an extraordinary place in which, like in ancient Greece and India, there are still stories that can be read as stories, or as philosophical teaching. One of these stories is the Kala Tatwa, the story of the Lord of Time, Batara Kala. The story below is only a slightly edited version of the

Balinese Architecture: A World of Order & Harmony

Balinese villages give an extraordinary impression of order. Houses are all identical and strikingly parallel in layout; with family temples, kitchens and rooms occupying the same relative position in the walled compound. Large temples, likewise, all have the same structure with their main shrines occupying the same kaja kangin (east-mountainward) corner. This Balinese sense of


Banyan Trees and the Cult of Ancestors

Indonesia is home to one of the most fantastic trees in the world, the banyan tree, locally known as waringin, a kind of ficus. Apart from its size and surface, the most extraordinary aspect of the banyan is its resilience. When its vines touch the ground, they grow into new roots and trunks, spreading out

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