Craft&Culture


    Theatrical Island

      31-8-2017
     

    Theatrical Island

    Theatrical Island

    The Balinese Hindus march to the beach, carrying their temple's sacred effigies.

    Theatrical Island

    Theatrical Island

    A pecalang is patrolling an empty beach on Nyepi.
    Theatrical Island

    Theatrical Island
    The Balinese Hindus march to the beach, carrying their temple's sacred effigies.

    Theatrical Island

    Theatrical Island
    A pecalang is patrolling an empty beach on Nyepi.

    Important Balinese rituals before and after Nyepi...

    As the last fortress of Hinduism in Indonesia, the nation with the world’s largest Muslim population, the Balinese on the Island of the Gods are known for their dedication to their rituals, one of them being the annual celebration of the Saka New Year, known as the Day of Silence or Nyepi.

    Decades ago, American anthropologist Clifford James Geertz in his book entitled “Negara: The Theatre State in Nineteenth-Century Bali”, introduced the term “theater of state” to describe the power of Bali Island and defined its existence and objectives through drama and religious rituals. Geertz combined ethnographic understanding which is focused on the role of rituals as a part of political power among the island’s elites. He also revealed the powerful position of the ritual and, most importantly, the necessity of theatrical quality in the Balinese ceremonies.

    Nyepi is not only a ritual but also a well-staged theatrical piece that is designed to make spectators realize one important value; that the universe needs time to rest. The “show” starts four days prior to Nyepi where the Balinese Hindus conduct the Melasti ritual, a religious ceremony to purify Bhuana Alit (our small world) and Bhuana Agung (the universe). The Balinese Hindus march to the beaches, rivers, lakes and holy springs, carrying their temple’s sacred effi gies and ritual paraphernalia and splashing water to recharge the objects with supernatural powers. Most of the time Melasti is performed at the beach.

    The Balinese Hindus believe that the ocean has powerful, supernatural healing and gives protection. The ocean can be used to neutralize negative energy while sand is used to fortify houses from black magic attacks. At the end of the ritual, all the sacred objects are taken to the shoreline and dipped into the salt water, a symbolic gesture of cleansing and recharging them with potent energy bestowed by Baruna, the lord of the ocean.

    Tawur Agung Kesanga
    The “show” continues on to one day before Nyepi which is called Pengerupukan. In the morning of Pengerupukan, the Balinese hold the grand sacrificial rituals of Tawur Agung Kesanga to appease the destructive forces of nature and demonic spirits. Later in the evening, they will parade around villages, carrying bamboo torches and scary-looking gigantic-sized effigies known as Ogoh-Ogoh accompanied by the sound of the gongs to scare away the demons.

    Then, during Nyepi, the island will be so peaceful and quiet for 24 hours as the Balinese do the Catur Brata Penyepian or the four abstinences that comprise amati geni (abstaining from lighting any fire or light), amati karya (abstaining from work), amati lelungan (abstaining from traveling outside of one’s family compound) and amati lelanguan (abstaining from enjoying any entertainment and fun activities). All entrances to the island are closed to everyone, including flights and overland transportation. The airport, harbors and tourist destinations are closed, while television stations go off. Only emergency services remain open. The Balinese Hindus regard Nyepi as a day to practice self-control, to reflect on their deeds on the previous year and cleanse their minds to face the challenges in the coming year.

    Ngembak Geni
    The last part of the “show” is Ngembak Geni that falls on the day after Nyepi. The island is alive again quickly as families and friends gather to ask for forgiveness from one another, and to perform certain religious rituals together. One of the most interesting rituals during this day is Omed-Omedan, the annual kissing festival held for the youths of Banjar Kaja in Denpasar. In the Balinese language, omed means pulling each other. The community from Banjar Kaja is required to preserve this ritual as an act of devotion to their ancestors and deities who protect the village from any possible catastrophic events.

    According to a local member of Banjar Kaja, there was a time when the Dutch colonial government banned this tradition, so did the Indonesian government soon after the country’s independence in 1945. However, soon afterwards a plague hit the village, causing many to fall ill. Pigs were also fighting in the village, yet no one knew where the animals actually came from. To overcome the catastrophe – and to avoid it in the future – the elders believe that Omed-Omedan ritual must be held. Ever since then, the ritual is hosted every year.

    That’s why, Omed-Omedan – and other Balinese rituals, for that matter – must be preserved as a precious heritage of Balinese ancestors. It brings Balinese people together to enjoy togetherness and at the same time to pay respect to their age-old traditions.

     

     
    Agung Parameswara

       Contributor : Agung Parameswara


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