About Me

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Taman, Bali, Indonesia
I am just a 38 years old fellow from a small village named Taman, on the island of Bali. There is nothing that is too special about me. I am not a person with degree but I always love to have opportunity to learn new things in my life. I am working just as a driver and tour guide for Bali and I have been happy doing it for more than 16 years now and it might be the only things that I can do for the rest of my life.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Exploring the hidden beauty of Lemukih village - North Bali.

Lemukih is a small village on the northern slope of Bali Central Mountain. It is a small village, which is known for its rice farm, coffee, clove and various kind of tropical fruit cultivation and lies on the altitude of 638 m above the sea level, it is offering a cool mountain air. Lemukih came from a word of Lembu akeh means many cows, as what the story that we have heard from the local people that the village founders found lots of cows around the forest there when they first arrived at the area.

We start our walk at around 11:00 AM following the dirt trails that have been used by the local farmers for centuries. The path goes through the local farming area where there are various kinds of crops grows well in a very fertile soil. Along the way we have seen only few simple houses of the farmers who are looking after the farm. We kept observing and recognizing every vegetation that we saw along the way while enjoying the stunning view of the mountain, lush river valley, spectacular rice terraces and lovely waterfall. We kept putting our step on the dirt trails, jumping over the irrigation streams where the clear water run continuously to the rice paddies which terracing down the river valley. The coconut trees grow sparsely along the dike of the rice terraces adding more beauty for the view.

We met a local farmer who was keeping his rice paddies from the birds, we took a rest there while enjoying the great scenery around the paddy filed and was asking him if it's possible for us to have a young coconut as he got so many coconut trees growing around his field. He was nodding and smiling then he walked to his little hut in the middle of the paddy field to get his sickle. He looked around to see one of the trees that have the best young coconut. I was lying on flat basalt on the side of the path while enjoying my clove cigarette. Gusti and my other friend Nyoman was waiting around the coconut tree where the old man is getting us couple young coconut. It was a great resting time for us with the fresh young coconut juice, it was so refreshing and giving us some more energy to continue our walk.

After finishing our young coconut juice and giving a little tip for the old man, we then continue to walk along the dike of the yellow rice paddies down to a stream that leads us to a waterfall. We sit around for a few minutes and having some fruits that we got from a friend in the village before we started our walk. It was really wonderful to sit on the riverside and hearing the sound of the waterfall besides us. Suddenly the rain comes and we ran to a little house on the hillside facing to a lush river valley. The house was empty and we sit on a gazebo around the corner of the house, which has the view over the river valley. We were sitting there for about 15 minutes to wait for the rain stop. We could just sit right out there forever because of the spectacular view over the valley and the mountain in a distance.

We continued to follow the little path which was leading us to another wonderful waterfall, and the path was ended there and we had to walk back and try to find another path along the paddy field and we got to the top of the hill we saw a great view over the northern sea and it was so clear after the rain. We kept following the path and walking through few houses of the farmers and finally came out to the main street of the village. Gusti then got a ride on a motorbike to get the car at the starting point and collecting us back. We drove back to our local friend's house where we were provided with some meal and lots of coffee. It was around 6:30 PM, I was sitting on the veranda of the house and looking up to the mountain that is so close from the house, slowly it came to a silhouette as the sun was setting behind the mountain. What a perfect day in a peaceful little village, Bali is actually still having its hidden beauty.

Friday, September 09, 2005

When The God Descend at The Mountain.

Our ancestors told us to spend our holiday with contemplation not vacation like in the west. After being so busy doing all the work on the rice field, during the season of Kadasa they are entrusting themselves, pampering their soul and honoring the almighty spirits.

Full moon in the sky, without any clouds hanging around, rain is falling less and change to dry, and Fresh air. Up in the mountain area is still a little bit colder. The wind is still strongly blowing from southeast, falling off all the bloomy. Birds are busy making up their nest and mating. The cows and buffalos are starting to be getting their pregnancy, little birds are having whims on the vast golden rice paddies, and rivers with its clearly water. Entering the season of Kadasa, the tenth month around March 25th through April 21st, Bali is really entering a clean realm of nature. Our ancestors had given a name of Kadasa means clean.

From the 12 seasons that we have in Bali, Kadasa is the freshest and the coolest season. The sun is not too burning and the air is very fresh. The local farmers who are very sensitive with the sign from the sky, tricking this season as the right time to plant corn, peanuts, sweet potatoes and vine plantations such as beans, cucumber, pumpkins, etc. it is also a great time to plant flowers and articulated plants such as bamboos and sugarcane. During this season the plantations are rarely got the oily dew. The people who love to produce honey, it’s also the right time to hang the beehive where the honeybee would be easily come and stay in it. Shortly it is a happy season for the farmers in Bali.

During the season of Kadasa is believed that the gods are descending up in the mountains enjoying the beauty of the nature. It is the season that mostly blessed by the gods, and it is considered that the earth is the closest to the planet of the gods, moreover when it is full moon in the sky.

These beliefs, which make the Balinese people, are making religious devotion to the gods during the season. It is the time when the farmers are having their holiday as they have just done with the rice harvest, they have no work except cutting the grass for their cows, and then they will be deep in their religious activities. It is a long holiday for the Balinese, which means having worship and pampering the souls after working hard for 12 seasons.

It is not strange during this season, Bali is deep into serenity of their ritual ceremonies with waving of religious chanting, and jingling of the priest’s bells conducting the ceremony is slitting the silence of the villages, gently sounds of Gamelan are like inviting the gods to descend from the heaven. In some villages, the people are conducting a specific ceremony to honor the goddess of the fertility. Bali is becoming a real theater of the great heaven.

On this season, at the mother temple of Besakih/on the feet of Mount Agung, we have a great ceremony to worship the god and goddess that’s descending on the mountains from the heaven, and the feet of this mountain is becoming the main destination for the Balinese to pay their homage to the almighty gods. It is becoming the orientation of the free time, and as a place to pray to the mountain gods as the goddess of the fertility.

In some of Bali’s spiritual literatures, mountain is becoming the source of the prosperity. Mountains are the center and the main source of all the fertility and prosperity that flows down through the rich farms of the villages. If the mountains are bold, water stops running, rivers would be dried up, rice paddies would be gone and at the end starving will attack the people, civilization would be dissolved.

We are all on the entire world have the same duty to preserve our environment, mountains and forest as the source of the life. Let’s stick together to create this world as the most beautiful, peaceful and harmonious place in the entire universe. I am sending you my warmest greeting from the island of gods “ BALI”.

Balinese Subak

Subak is a traditional rice farmer association in Bali. It is very well known and well astonished around the world, and now it is getting pushed aside among the mega development on the island. Productive rice field is getting less because it has been taken over for houses, hotel development, golf courses, etc. we can imagine what Bali is going to be without its spectacular rice terrace view. Our next generation will only see the beauty of Bali’s famous rice terrace view from all the postcards and documentary photograph that have been taken by the tourists who by chance have visited this island of thousand temples. There will be no more stories about Bali’s famous irrigation system, scarecrows for keeping the birds away, duck shepherd who always come and feeding their ducks with the left over rice from the harvesting, and the whims of the local people during the harvesting time. Well, let’s take a look at a light story below.

Once long time ago, there was an old rice farmer who lives in a small village on the island of Bali. He was died at the age of 96 years old. He was spending his entire life working on the rice field to do rice farming. Even when he was born, it was in a little hut in the middle of the rice field amongst the sniffing of the cows and the chicken’s crowing. His childhood, teenager, adult, after married, having children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren he was spending by being a rice farmer. He was really devoting his entire life of being a rice farmer. He is almost being on the field the whole day or even till late at night to look after his irrigation system to make sure that everything is going right. He was still picking up tomatoes from his garden five hours before he was leaving this world forever.
Of course there was nothing really special about this old rice farmer died. After the Kulkul(the wooden bell) in the village was beaten, it’s forwarding the news to the entire villagers that an old guy has finished his duty in this real world and now is heading to the next world. The whole villagers were coming to his home to prepare the entire thing for his cremation ceremony, and then his body was cremated in a very simple cremation ceremony.

But the death of that old poor rice farmer was becoming unusual when his soul went to get an eternal union with the almighty god. On the front of the heaven’s door, all the heavenly angles and the brave handsome heaven’s soldiers welcomed him. They were welcoming this old rice farmer’s soul with a great happiness and praiseworthy songs. Surely it made this poor guy being so astonished by the great welcoming ceremony as during his life he had never treated that way. And behind himself, there was a soul of the high priest was on his turn to enter the heaven, but the heaven’s soldiers got on his way and said,” you have to go through the interrogation room".

That priest was having his protest to the soldiers as he had devoted almost a half of his life for the sake of the spiritual glory of the human being in the real world. If we try to compare the poor rice farmer, of course that priest that should go to heaven without any interrogation or inspection. The soldiers told him that the poor rice farmer was an honest, innocent, simple and never complaining even protesting. His entire life’s energy and work he had devoted for the sake of the human being. But the priest himself, before he was becoming a priest, he was a common human being who had ever cheated his friends, cheating his business partner and it was enough making other people annoyed. He was not paying off his debt to the others, so that he has to be interrogated before entering the heaven. He has to responsible to his behavior during his life. That was the excuses of the soldiers.

The old rice farmer was being confused, so the main reason of a good deed and glory in the heaven and the real world was not really the same. He was the one that working hard on the filed to provide food for the sake of the prosperity of the human being then the reward of his hard work he’s now enjoying it in the heaven. What a long journey and time that he had to go through in receiving all the reward of his good karma for almost a hundred years of living on earth.

The above story is surely not trying to convince people that the only way to go to the heaven is being a rice farmer. It’s also without any intention of overrating the task and function of the farmers. But among the Balinese community, farmers are the poor people where lack and hardship, subordination, honest, and strenuous are always filling their lives. They are the people who always consider life as a work. Selling their crops besides what they need in providing food for their family, they never have an intention to get multiple profits.

Anyhow, aren’t there many rich farmers? Instantly those Clove, coffee and vanilla farmers. Honestly, they are not a genuine farmer anymore, but they have been acting more like a merchant that always emphasize a multiple profits. If we hold up to the above story, the deities of god who are judging the souls in the heaven, they are surely having a curtain rule and definition for this group of people.

However for the Balinese people, a strong friendship among the farmers, individually and as group are very strong. Every rice farmer is a member of the Subak, a group of very religious social-economy that’s traditional farmers. Anywhere around the world, there must be a group of farmers but the Balinese Subak is known to be very unique with its religious principle. Subak is also being admired for its comparative.

There were thousands of scientist have come to Bali to examine the Subak system. There are so many theses and dissertations were made from the examination. The Subak’s doctrine and theory have become a form and model for the group of rice farmers in South East Asian countries and Africa, and Subak has been praised by the people round the world. But why is the famous Subak association couldn’t prosper the rice farmers? Why are there still many rice farmers who are living very poor even they have been becoming a rice farmer for many years? It’s probably because of being so honest and moderate that is making them still becoming flabby low class community. Subak is very well known for its perfect water irrigation system but surely they are not great in marketing and wouldn’t survive in competition. They are no more being a model and example. Even there were so many worlds’ group of rice farmers and scientist from round the world that examined about Subak but it’s limited only because of its strong friendship and religiosity. Apparently, Subak is very weak in the position of bargaining.

Galungan & Kuningan Festival on Bali island!

Mythological background

Once, in around 6th century there was a battle between The God Indra and the evil king of Mayadenawa who said to have ruled over Bali prohibited the worship of the gods, destroyed shrines and tried to wipe out all religion and as the result Bali fell upon evil days. All the gods were very angry and told Indra to eliminate the evil king. After a series of battles, Indra finally killed Mayadenawa and the victory over Mayadenawa is the source for the important Galungan celebration.

Among the many holidays in the Balinese Hindu, the most prominent are undoubtedly those of Galungan and Kuningan. It takes place every 210 days according to the Balinese calendar, Galungan falls every Wednesday and Kuningan falls every Saturday, 10 days after Galungan. Colorful offerings are made for the festival, temple are well dressed up with batik, white and yellow cloth, Penjors are made and place on the front of the house gates and temples which are arching the villages roads.

Penyekeban Galungan

Is on Sunday before Galungan, the green bananas are sealed in a huge clay pots and on tops the rice husk fire burns. The heat treatments ripen them quickly. We do this only when we do not have enough bananas ripe for the festival, as we need lots of bananas for the Galungan offerings.

Penyajaan Galungan

It comes from a word “Jaja” means cake. It is on Monday before Galungan, where the women are busy in making the colorful rice cakes for the offerings. They are then being placed on the woven young coconut leaf and decorated with various fresh flowers. All the different offerings are being sorted and gathered for each of the shrines in our family temple and the local village temples. They are all well prepared for Wednesday’s festival.

View more photos of Penyajaan

In the afternoon, the men are busy to prepare the pig that they are going to slaughter the next morning on Penampahan day. A few days before, people have gathered themselves into a small group to share the pork of a pig that might be 100 kilogram of weight. The group normally contains of at least 10 people. They surely have been looking around for the pig in the village that they are going to buy and shared for the festival. When all being set-up, the group catch the pig in the afternoon around 5 PM for the early morning butchering. A couple of them getting into the pigsty tie the pig while the others are circling around to give hand. They tie up the mouth, the front and back legs with a rope that is made of a thin split young bamboo for the scaling. The owner then gives the pig a small blessing ceremony before the scaling. Basically, it is a way for the owner to ask for a good weight of their pig so they can get better money. After scaling the pig, it is then being tied up strongly by a tree, so that it will not run away at night as they are going to be butchered the next early morning. The nighttime is a bit different now as you are hearing lots of noise from the many pig around your village and your neighboring villages. I can imagine that all those pigs are having such a nightmare for the night. They all said,”I wish that I wasn’t born as a pig”. They are slandering the whole night and it makes us hardly get some sleep the entire night. I am sure that it is also happening to those Bali bombers who have been punished to death by the judges for what they have done to our island. They must be slandering us overnight of their nightmares before the execution day that will come to their boring life. What can they do? All have been judged. A judgment day!

Penampahan Galungan

Is on Tuesday before Galungan. It comes from word “Tampah”means slaughtering animal. For the Galungan festival it is mostly pig. Starting from around 3 AM, villages are breaking out into scream of pigs are being slaughtered for the festival. They are screaming and screaming but nobody care, sharp knives are cutting their throat with a few words from the butcherer, “I wish that you will be reborn as a better god’s creature in your next reincarnation”. It is the last words that they hear before the blood pouring out into big bucket, they fall down helplessly. After they sure that the pig is dead, they burn dried coconut leaf for burning the fur of the pig, cleaning them up and chopping them into pieces for everyone in the group.

View more photos for Penampahan Day

They bring home their share and cooking them for the morning feasts and offerings. They make lawar, a spicy hash made of finely ground pork, young long bean, young JackFruit or papaya and dozens of spices. Sticks satay are made for the offering and grilled on the fire that is built from coconut shell. We also make sausages from our pork, soup, and pepesan chopped meat with different spices that are wrapped in the green banana leaf and steamed. Our morning are busy cooking all the above for the Galungan offerings. Around 1 PM or 2 PM, we are very much done with our work.

After having our lunch from what we have cooked in the morning, men are cutting the bamboo for our Penjor, climbing up the palm tree to get the young leaf for the penjor’s decoration. It is a hard job to do especially after your stomach full of good food but we have to do it. The whole afternoon we spent for making up our penjor, make it as nice as possible, hoping that we are not having the worst one in the village. After the penjor is done, we hang whatever we grow in our garden like banana, sweet potato, corn, rice, coconut and rice cakes to thank to the god for what he has blessed in your life, in term of food stock. It is symbolizing the prosperity. A small shrine of a woven bamboo is placed on the Penjor about our height to make us easy to put the offerings. We then place the penjor on the front of our house gate. Our village roads are arched by the colorful penjor from every house, a wonderful view of very festive days.
We cut the grass around our house, burn the trash and make our area clean for the festival.

We dress up our family temple with beautiful clothes, putting up the temple umbrellas, banners and hang the Cili, a woven young coconut leaf that is made like goddesses symbol of fertility and prosperity. All are well prepared for the upcoming visit of the ancestral spirits.

Galungan Day

Wednesday, it is the highlight of the festival where it is the time for prayer, family gathering, and offerings, all temples ring with merriment. Early morning, we are busy to place all the offerings on every shrine of our family temple, main family temple, clan temple, and the village temples. The roads are busy with people carrying offerings on their head for the temples. Everyone, including kids are well dressed up with their traditional outfits for the prayer. Prayers are made in every temple, continued by holy water blessing. Our holy ancestors descend from the heaven, receiving our devotion and blessing all of us with prosperity, peace and harmony.

View more photos of Galungan Day

Manis Galungan

On this day, we are a bit relaxed after going through all the ceremony’s preparations and prayers. It is a time to visit friends, relatives or just hanging around and making the roads jammed with cars and motorbikes. It is show time, time to show your look and looking at people look along the roads. Tourist’s sites are flooded with families, youngsters, and another day of spending and spending your budget especially if you have kids. People are selling toys everywhere that make your kids crying out.

Kuningan Day

It takes place 10 days after Galungan and marks the end of the festival. We still make more offerings, as the ancestors return to heaven.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Naga Banda : Green Dragon

It is another unique cremation appliance which is rarely used in a cremation ceremony as it has a very special meaning and position. The length of Naga Banda according to its rule is around 2,5 kilometers ( 1,600 Depa in Balinese), what a huge size? Because if we make it according to its real size, it is going to be so huge and also cost a lot of money for the construction, so they make only the head and the tail as elaborate as it could, but the middle part of its body it is created in a simple rope and being rolled up but still fulfilling well-balanced and compatible esthetic.

The Naga Banda is only used in a very special cremation for a certain family. It is only a certain high priest and the royal crowned person or someone who was specially awarded by the King of Gelgel are deserved to use it in their cremation. It is a symbol of binds or ties of man’s earthly physical needs. On the day of the cremation the binds are being released by a priest using a very specific mantra. The dragon will be guidance for the soul to find his way to the next world.

The appearance story of Naga Banda.

There is an interesting story on how the Naga Banda appears at first. Once, the king had been waiting for the visit of a Hindu-Buddhist priest and he wanted to test the spiritual ability of the priest. The priest was considered to have Dura Darsana means a spiritual ability to see something that can’t be seen with naked eyes. The king got an idea by telling his servants to dig a hole in the ground about 2 meters of depth in his family temple ground. A goose was placed inside the hole and the geese make a sound, it was echoing and indeed sounds different.

Shortly, the priest that had been waited by the king arrived at the palace, was asked about the sounds that was echoing around the palace. After a short gazing, then the priest answered with a great honor, “of course my lord, it is a sound of a great dragon”. The king was laughing out loud and convinced that the priest is not having any spiritual ability as what people said. The king told the priest that it was only a sound of a goose that he was placed in the hole. The priest stairs at the king with a very sharp eyes, and said,” it is a great dragon of 2,5 kilometers of length and he comes to this world because of your behaviors. He is coming down to pick me up as I have to go to the heaven this day. “Let’s have a look together then, my lord”, said the priest.

The king with his own truth accompanied the priest to his temple ground. The cover of the hole was opened and what a surprise…., a huge dragon with its roaring looming out from the hole. The dragon with full of respect came to the priest and asked him to get on his back for the journey to the heaven, but when he was as high as a coconut tree, suddenly the king was begging the priest to be allowed to come along with him. The priest was giving the permit for the king and he got up on the tail of the dragon and then both of the priest and the king go to a different world together riding the dragon.

Since that time, in every cremation of a Balinese Hindu-Buddhist priest and the king, Naga Banda is being used. The dragon is also represents the relation and the binds of the king and the priest. Naga Banda could have many different value and meanings as the Balinese culture is a multi-interpretations.

How to use the dragon?

Prior to the purification ceremony for the body, the dragon is placed by the side of the body. The head must be heading to south west and the tail heads to north east direction. The north east is the source of immaterial, and the south west is the source of material. The Naga Banda, Kajang ( a peace of white cloth with a magical drawing that showing the clan of the person)and Cremation tower are being purified by the priest on the day prior to the actual cremation.

On the day of the cremation during the procession to the cemetery ground, once again the priest using his holy chant or mantra arrows the dragon with a flower tip bow arrow. It symbolize that the mind of the priest whose conducting the ceremony accompanying the soul of the deceased to the next world.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Petulangan : Wooden Sarcophagus

Petulangan: Wooden Sarcophagus.

It is where the body is going to be cremated. When it gets to the cemetery ground, the body is lifted down from the cremation tower and being placed in this wooden sarcophagus. The forms of the sarcophagus are certain kind of animal that have a religious value. As we know that the Hindu religion in India are consists of many sects which is different one to another, but on the island of Bali, most of those sects came and spreads around the island. Later on they are melted into one and even it’s influenced by Buddhism and also old ancient beliefs.

Even if they have been melted but the trace of those sects are still slightly existed in the community. So the form of the sarcophagus shows us of those certain sect. for the family who are using Lembhu (Cow) sarcophagus comes from the Shiva Sect regardless of what caste they come from. Naga Kahang ( Winged Dragon), Gajahmina ( animal that lives in the water) are used by the family whose their ancestors were Vishnu sect. for the family whose their ancestors were following the Brahma sect, using sarcophagus in a form of a tiger, lion, bear and other wild animals. Besides the above forms pf sarcophagus, there is also a simple form which is called Bawisiati. It is in a form of a long parallelogram. It is used by any kind of sect, neutral.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Bade ~ Cremation Tower

Bade or Wadah is the named for the cremation tower that is used to carry the corpse down to the cemetery ground from the home. It is the most beautiful and attractive part of the cremation ceremony that invites a lots of spectators and becoming the best object of photography in a cremation ceremony. For the essence of the cremation, it is not a must to be built even if it could be important. It means that without any Bade, a cremation could be done.

Bade is a construction for the dead which has a specific materials, proportions and size. It is constructed with bamboo, paper mace and cotton. The architecture of the Bade’s construction is very different than the architecture of a construction for the living human being moreover for the God.

Bade shows the social status of a person in the community. During the time of the Gelgel Dynasty in the 15th ~ 17th-Century, the kind of Bade that a person can used in his cremation was accordingly to his social status in the kingdom. If someone has a high social status in the community, the more elaborate and higher of the Bade that would be built for his cremation, so it was likely an award from the ruling king. The number of roof that Bade could have is very much depending on what being awarded by the King and it is mentioned in the manuscript of the local clans in Bali.

The Bade represents the universe with its Bedawang Nala (The world turtle) as its base, surrounded by the two dragons, Naga Basuki and Ananta boga as the symbol of safety and perpetual foods. Above them on the backside of the Bade is a big, grotesque mask of Bhoma with its outstretched wings symbol of the lofty forest and mountains. At the very top is the receding size of the multi tiers of roof, symbol of the heaven. The turtle and the dragons live in the lower world named Bhur, and the above is the world of man called Bwah, symbolized with the Bhoma. At the top is the world of heaven, Swah and it is symbolized by the tiers of roof at the Bade itself.

The height of the Bade could reach up to 25 meters and the weight of 11 ton, required a few hundreds of man to carry it. A wealthy family may pay the electric company to remove the wires temporarily for the Bade to go through during the procession to the cremation site.

Why do we have the cremation?

Before we have to answer the above question with any of its own reason, so we have to understand the meaning of the ( Pitra Yadnya) cremation with its diversity of existence. Pitra Yadnya means a sincere devotion to the ancestors, especially to our parents. We are all greatly owe our parents because of the father’s sperm and our mother’s ovum, then through the blood and the umbilical cord of our mother, we are fed with all kind of food that makes us growing and becoming a baby. Our mother gives a birth with such a pain, caring and breastfeeds us till we grow up to be a cute child.

Where do the foods come from? When we were in the womb, the food was in the blood of our mother and being transferred to us, the foods come from the nature that our mother eats, drinks and breathe. It is the fact that can’t be denied. So basically our body is created with the same elements that are used to create the universe. In the Balinese Hindu, it is called Panca Maha Bhuta which consists of Pertiwi (earth), Apah (Water), Teja ( Fire or Light) Bayu ( air) and Akasa ( Space, Ether).

From the elements, we got the life and we owe them for that. We owe them as long as the elements are still in a form of body either when we still alive or after we die. As a debt, it is a duty and responsibility for us to pay it off when the time comes. During our life we carefully look after our body but after it is not needed anymore by the soul, we have to return every element back to its origin. In our Balinese Hindu’s culture, it is the cremation that is conducted in returning the elements to its origin. As a religious and cultured human being and to show our affection, respect, responsibility and honor to our loved family member or ancestors, of course it is not enough just simply burn the body. So an elaborate and beautiful cremation is often being conducted by the family to fulfill the emotion, sense of beauty, respect and manner.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Wayan Sueta, a young fellow from Bali.

My warmest greetings from Bali!

My full name is actually I Wayan Suetayasa but I only use Wayan Sueta, as it is a lot easier for people to remember. The oldest of three brothers, I was born February 16th, 1973 in a small village called Taman on the west side of the sacred Ayung River in Ubud. As with most other kids in my village, I have lived there my whole life, first learning to farm and raise cattle from my grandparents. At the age of 9 my parents decided to register for a transmigration program to Borneo. Transmigration is a government program designed to move people from the over populated islands of Indonesia to sparsely populated areas such as Borneo, Sulawesi and Sumatra. My parents were interested in taking advantage of the resettlement program because, as an incentive, the government gave participants farmland. Since then I have been living in Bali with my grandparents. Although I only finished high school, as I could not afford to attend the university, I have continued studying English and other subjects on my own. To this day I regret having to let go of my dream to be a doctor. I consider myself to be a very positive person, and believe that if one has a dream for a better life, there is always a way to manifest it. Sometimes one has to give up one dream to achieve another.
I never aspired to be a guide, but I can say quite honestly that I am very proud of my vocation. I am proud to have a chance to share my beautiful country with people and introduce them to Bali's unique culture. I have been sharing the beauty of Bali with tourists from around the world since 1988, when I stated as a trekking guide. For a few years I took people on scenic hikes around Ubud to find its hidden beauty and to introduce people to the local villages and their way of life. It was a great time for me to brush up on my English, as I had a lot of opportunities to practice it during the leisurely walks through the lovely countryside. As I matured and became more proficient in my communication skills, I was tempted to share more about the island's beauty. This naturally led me to become a driver and guide, and in a short time I began taking people on wonderful tours all around the island.

Among the many rewards I have gained from being a guide is a renewed sense of pride and appreciation for the natural beauty and the incredible richness of its culture. I am eager to share all its beauty with everyone who wants to see and experience the real Bali. As someone who has spent my whole life living in the countryside, I know where to find the magical, hidden parts of the island as well as all the famous tourist resorts. I have also taken groups to other islands such as Lombok, Java, Borneo and Komodo, home of the famous Komodo dragons.

Backed by all the experience and knowledge that I have gained over the years, my goal is nothing short of giving my clients the ultimate vacation in Bali. I am proud to share all the beauty and mystery of my country with you so that you may bring home wonderful stories to tell your loved ones, and memories that will last a lifetime.
Anyway, I love making friendship with anybody around the world and sharing about our life, culture and other interesting stuff of our life. There are so much that we can share about this life even if we live thousands mile away across the great blue ocean but we can feel ourselves so close to each other with the love bind of pure friendship. I am pretty happy to share about my country with anyone who has any interest to learn and knowing about my beautiful island of Bali. I love taking photograph of nature and cultural events of my country and really love to share with everyone who has interest about it. I love outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, mount climbing and also love about art and painting.

Well, email me anytime on your convenience and we can start the exchange via the net and maybe we can see each other someday.

My warmest regards from Bali,

Wayan Sueta.

Balinese Cremation Ceremony

For the Balinese Hindu followers, there are ceremonies for every stage of life but often the last ceremony or cremation is the biggest and the most elaborate. Ngaben derives from the word “Abu” means ashes, is a cremation ceremony that is conducted by the Balinese Hindu followers. It is often called Pitra Yadnya by the local people of Bali. It is one of the Five Ritual or Panca Yadnya which are carried out by the Balinese Hindu. Pitra Yadnya comes from the word “Pitra” and “Yadnya”. Pitra means souls or ancestor and Yadnya means sincere devotions or sacrificial, so Pitra Yadnya briefly means a sincere devotion or ceremony that is conducted for the body and soul of the dead. A cremation or Ngaben is conducted to return the five elements that are used to create the human body to its origin.

In the Hindu Balinese cosmology, the body of man is a microcosm of the universe which is made up of the same five elements, known as Panca Maha Bhuta. They are air, water, earth, fire and space. After the body’s death, the immortal soul, according to our principal of reincarnation, will find a home in another form, but before it might go through a kind of hell before being able to gain Moksha (a state of perfection in which the soul is liberated forever from any temporal life or ascend to a state of ultimate oneness with God). It depends on the deed of the person itself during his temporary life in this universe. The better that we do in our life the faster that the soul would gain the union to the God. The soul of a dead person can not immediately leaves the body, only after the body’s five elements have been returned to the macrocosm by cremation can the soul completely detach itself from the body.

Cremation is an occasion of a celebration for the Balinese as represent the release of their ancestor’s spirit and the accomplishment of the family’s duty. As what Miguel Covarrubias observed in his book, the Island of Bali: "Strange as it seems, it is in their cremation ceremonies that the Balinese have their greatest fun." For the Balinese, the death shouldn’t be cried as the tears can be an obstacle for the soul to find his way to the new world. We are so happy and excited when a new baby born, why should we cry out when someone has to go? We all well understand the natural rule of life, born, live and die. It is a cycle of life.

A Balinese cremation ceremony can be truly an amazing, spectacular, colorful, noisy and exciting event. In fact, it often takes so long to organize a cremation that could be years after a person have passed away. During that time the body is temporarily buried in the local cemetery ground. But of course it is not always the case if a person is a priest or a royal family. They normally do not burry the dead, they would keep the body at home until a good day to conduct the cremation comes. It would be given by their high priest. For the un-wealthy family, they burry the body straight away after the person died and wait until an auspicious day would be chosen for the cremation. They would take the opportunity of joining in at a larger cremation at the same time. It allows them to share the cost of the ceremony itself. It is often that we can see 50 to hundred families conducting a cremation at the same time which surely offer us a very special event that none in the village would missed out. On some other cases, the poorer villagers may join in the elaborate ceremonies of a wealthier neighbor when a proper ceremony, such as the royal cremation or a high priest is undertaken. Like the one that was taking place in Mengwi district of Badung Regency of Bali in December 2001, for the 13th generations of the kings, Ida Cokorda Mengwi.he was cremated and followed by 830 other Balinese that came from 37 villages in the district of Mengwi. It might have been the biggest in number over centuries. It was truly a spectacular ceremony where thousands of people have flocked to Puri Agung Palace in Mengwi, Bali to witness one of the island's biggest cremations of recent years.

A modest cremation ceremony could cost hundred thousands of dollars and takes weeks and months of preparation for the offerings and other related ceremonial appliances. The days between death and ceremony are spent in intense preparation of many details and rituals leading up to the event and without the voluntary cooperation of the community, friends and family members, the necessary preparations would be impossible. With the sense of togetherness and working hand in hand, all the necessary offerings and appliances will be done on time for the event. In the Balinese way of life, serving for the community’s activities is the priority and the most important thing in our lives.

A part from being simple and elaborate of the cremation itself, the most important part in conducting a ceremony is that how sincerely we conduct the rites without any burden. It is the essence of the ceremony itself that is the priority.

To see and experience a Balinese cremation ceremony is both a rare opportunity and a soul-searching experience. Understanding the centuries old rituals and beliefs that make the custom a tradition among the Balinese Dharma Hindu helps bring perspective to an event, which could otherwise become lost in a smoky mist of confusion.