Sabtu, 14 Maret 2009

Bali Island, Indonesia, ‘The ultimate island'

Sabtu, 14 Maret 2009

mother temple of besakih in bali island

The Mother Temple of Besakih one of Bali’s most significant Hindu temples

The Island of Bali is unique in many aspects; it is a cultural entity; an island in the Islamic sea of the Indonesian Archipelago. A tiny island that still remembers the myths it was taught by the ancient masters who came from India armed with baggage full of myths, legends and never ending stories. Mahabharata, Ramayana and all epics found their way direct in to the hearts of a group of people who were not used to stories of such proportions. There a Hindu Empire by name Majapahit was established on these ancient wisdom and unending myths.

The rise and fall of Majapahit

Majapahit ruled most of the islands of the present Indonesian archipelago including Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan (Borneo), Bali etc. But an empire that was based on myths, wisdom, arts and culture could not endure the onslaught of Islam; it got weakened and finally crumbled down forcing its priests, scholars, artists, sculptures dancers et all to flee to Bali the nearby island. Thus Bali got enriched by this rare exodus and became the ‘ultimate island’ of myths, culture, arts, and wisdom.

The island of thousand temples

agung bali island

Southern Bali in the foreground and Mount Agung behind

Bali is often described as the island of thousand temples; in fact there are several thousands of temples even the government does not have an accurate count. Every village has minimum three temples and every home have at least one facing Mount Agung the highest place in Bali. For Balinese the mountains are the abode of gods; plains for human beings and the lowest plains are for the dead and demons.

Pura Puseh are temples dedicated to the founders of the villages and are placed on the highest places of the villages where Lord Brahma; the creator of the world resides.

Pura Desa are temples Pura Desa are temples located in the middle of the village; they are dedicated to Lord Vishnu who is the maintainer of the world. Some of the Pura Desa have Bale Agung an assembly held in every month; where Goddess Devi Shree is worshipped. In Bale Agung villagers assemble and discuss issues concerning the village.

Pura Dalem is the place for the dead; built in the lowest place of the village; it is dedicated to Lord Shiva who is associated with the duty of destruction.

The Besakih Temple is the largest and the most popular among the numerous temples of this island; it has about 35 shrines and big halls. The Besakih Temple is located 3000 feet above sea level on the slopes of Mount Agung; yet this temple was spared when the volcano erupted last time (in 1963).

The deity of this temple is (Naga Basukia) mother goddess. As per the Bali concepts gods are not permanents residents of temples but visit them only on auspicious occasions and offering is done on that time only. People from local areas visit this temple wearing sarong and carrying offerings in baskets made of plated coconut leaf. They collect the water from this temple which is blessed by the priest and take home for daily use.


bali island people

The Balinese are renowned for their sculpting

Bali is a comparatively small mountainous island dotted with short but fast flowing rivers; active volcanoes, deep ravines; sacred caves rice terraces and crater lakes. Its wide and sandy beaches are famous spots for surfers; while more than 11000 temples offer good sights for family vacationers. Bali has an area of 5561 sq km and a population of 3.15 million. The population of Bali is less than 3% of Indonesia’s total count. They speak mainly Balinese and Indonesian; but the trade of tourism has popularized western languages.

Brave hearts

Though the Balinese are hospitable and god fearing they are fiercely independent. The Dutch have experienced it thrice; the first encounter was in 1906 at Sanur. There 4000 Balinese resisted the well armed Dutch and embraced martyrdom. Two years later at Klung kung there was another war there also almost all of the royal members resisted the Dutch and chose death to subservience. The final war was in 1946 when the Dutch came back to reclaim there land; Balinese fought and got wiped out; but they never let the Dutch to interfere in their culture and style of living.

The Subaks of Bali

bali rice terrace

Rice terraces near Ubud

The Subaks are irrigation communities of Bali that laces various small farmers together so that farming can be done sharing available water on terraced lands. For Bali rice fields are temples and farming worship. It can be described as a ritual group farming.

The Subak is a social set up with a religious connotation that oversees the ritual of rice farming. Total area under a Subak can vary from 8 to 800 hectares consisting of numerous small farmers. More than allocating water; the subaks manage every thing related with farming as if the performance of a ritual.

The central water pool is the ‘water temple’ (known as Pura Subak or Pura Bedugul) from where community channels originate to reach every farm creating an ambient ecology for farming. The system is controlled by the priest of the water temple who ensures the resource is equally distributed. About 18% percent of Bali’s total area comes under Subak system.

These subaks have traveled along with the Balinese people who migrated to other Indonesian Islands and at present wherever there is Balinese settlements there will be Subaks, because it has got that much associated with Balinese population and way of living.

Mountains of Bali

bali kuta blast monument

Bali blast monument.

Bali being a mountainous island has no dearth for mountains; most of them are active volcanoes; the mountain ranges stretch from Batukaru in the west to Gunung Agung in the in the east. Mount Agung is the tallest among them (height 10308 feet); an active volcano that erupted in 1963. There is another one by name Mount Batur which is also active but has not erupted for several thousand years.

Lake Batur

It is Bali Island’s largest lake which was formed in a large volcanic caldera, when a huge volcano collapsed in to the magma chamber beneath it. At present among Bali’s numerous geographical phenomena that have turned out to be tourist spots; the Batur Lake along with the Kintamani Volcano that stands nearby remain as prime attraction for its visitors.

Beaches of Bali

Though the trump card of Bali is its cultural exclusivity; its beautiful beaches with unpolluted water, coral reefs and white sand play an equally important role in roping in tourists.

Nusa Dua is the southern most part of Bali; a peninsula jutting in to the sea is one of the best locations for recreation. It has crystal clear water, white sand and hotels with world’s best cuisine. It’s northern and southern parts offer best surfing opportunities.

Padangbai is a small beach town with a beautiful beach that is known for its affordable eating places known as Warungs which are family managed. Etc.

Kuta and Legian beaches are on the opposite side of Sanur (southwestern side); it is more commercialized with pubs, traditional dances performed for tourists, surfing facilities and shopping arcades etc. These are perhaps the most crowded beaches of Bali.

Jimbaran is a bottle-neck like area between mainland and Nusa Dua. It has calm waters as sheltered by Benoa Harbor. There are numerous resorts and tourist facilities in the village of Jimbaran.

Sanur, Changgu and Kuta beaches in Denpasar offer snorkeling, scuba diving and such facilities. They are in the southeastern side of Bali less than a 10 minutes drive from the heart of the city. A good location for watching sunrise an ancient temple is also in the vicinity.

Towns of Bali

bali ubud

Temple offering in predominantly Hindu Bali island.

Denpasar the Provincial Capital is the biggest city and that offers more amenities like beaches, spas, restaurants etc to the tourists. Ngura International Airport the main gateway to Bali is in Denpasar. The Shops of Denpasar are much sought after for artworks, exquisite pottery, hand-printed cloth (batik), silver-ware etc.

Ubud which is located amongst rice terraces and deep ravines is in one way more prominent as it is has richer artists in dance, sculpture, handicrafts, music etc. Ubud is perhaps the best place to stay while on visit to Bali as it is the heart of the Island not only as it is located at the center but the rural life the ‘hanging gardens’ (rice terraces), Balinese dances, ethnic music etc are at their best in this town; moreover there are numerous hotels offering accommodation.

Singa Raja (meaning lion king) was the seat of Buleleng Regency of Bali; it was also the administrative seat of the Colonial Dutch. The statue of the winged lion by name Singa Ambara Raja holding a bunch of maze-corn is the landmark of the town. It is built in front of the office of the Regent of the Singa Raja Province and is the symbol of the Buleleng Regency. Singa Raja has a famous library by name Gedong Kirtya which has classical works of historical importance.

The ultimate uncontaminated island

In many a aspects Bali is an ultimate island as often described; it was the ultimate refuge of Hindu faith that was exterminated from the archipelago, the exquisite dance (Barong), the subaks that excel most modern farming techniques, handicrafts, music, drama, colorful traditions, enchanting beaches, countless temples and what else. The ‘Wayang Kulit (leather puppet play) is another magical play where puppets made of leather play, sing, talk, fight and dance thrilling the entire audience. Bali has everything that can thrill a visitor.

Wonderful resilience

Most wonderful aspect of this small island is its resilience to protect and nurture its rare culture not getting diluted even if living as a part of the Islamic nation for the past centuries. The Dutch, Islam every thing had to leave the Balinese as Balinese who chose death to contamination.

Join celebrations

how the balinese see the tourist girls

Ogoh-ogoh monster in Ubud

Bali is a hot tourism spot both for pleasure and sight seeing. It is just 5 hour flight from Singapore or 8 from Tokyo. For Balinese their lives are filled with celebrations, it can be birth, birthdays, tooth filling, marriage, temple festivals or anything; it is a reason to celebrate, tourist who come to this island can witness either one or many celebrations here and there; and it also remains as one reason of so many people keep on coming to this small island.

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