Cyrcle of Life
According to Hindu religious beliefs, after death, a soul passes into another body. During its tenure in the body, the soul is in torment. Consequently, the soul is always seeking to free itself from incarnation so that it can attain enlightenment or moksa. Once enlightenment is achieved, both the body and soul can join their cosmic equivalents forever. Therefore, when a person dies, but its soul fails to achieve moksa, it will continue with the cycle of life through incarnations.
The religious rites which are performed to accompany a soul through its journey in the cycle of life incorporate these cosmic notions. The intervening journey between life and death is given high importance in Balinese rituals. Balinese believe that the mountains are the abodes of the gods, deified ancestors and souls which did not attain moksa. The gods and deified ancestors will descend occasionally to earth during temple ceremonies to partake of offerings and to enjoy entertainment. When the souls are ready to re-incarnate on earth, they will come from the mountains or straight from hell. That is why the mountains are revered as the Holy Places.
All the phases of existence, from pregnancy to birth and then from birth to death, will be accompanied by rituals. Their purposes are : to fasten the soul in its body before birth, to welcome it into the world, to take it harmoniously along the various stages of life, and, finally upon death, to help it cast away all earthly bonds and rejoin the old country of its origins. Here it can merge with the sublime soul of the world, paramata of God.
According to the principles of cosmic harmony, Man is expected to reach moksa. To do this he or she should strive to fulfill three other goals of life : desire-kama, wealth-artha, and virtue-dharma. Each of these goals should be fulfilled in an order of priority depending on the stage reached in life, such as when young, becoming an adolescent, getting married, and becoming old.
After marriage, priorities in life shift towards family and an accumulation of wealth or artha. Male heirs are regarded as important because it is these heirs of sentana who will implement the rituals of death and look after the family temples. They are a safeguard in the process of release. It is therefore important to accumulate wealth so that the rites for their ancestors and the community can be financed.
The Balinese death is a return to your origins. The preceding wheels of one’s life are the way to ultimate release. Not all corpses are cremated immediately, as some wait for an auspicious day, a collective ceremony or until their descendants have enough money to perform the rites. The cremation ritual is a reminder of the cosmic symbolism of life. The tower is a duplicate of the cosmos; the corpse is put in the middle, symbolizing its position between the spiritual and the human worlds. The sarcophagus, in which the body is burned, is a vehicle to take the soul away. The ashes a collected and taken to the sea. It is here that the soul passes through hell to be tortured and cleansed. The soul is then called back on shore and eventually taken back to the mother mountain, Gunung Agung. The soul is then enshrined in the family temple and the dead in now an ancestor, until the next incarnation.
Way of Life
Bali is densely populated island. Most of the population live in closely packed villages of 2.000 to 4.000 people on the fertile southern slopes of the islands, along the ridges that carry the irrigation ditches. On these slopes it is usually only a fifteen minute walk from one village to another through open rice fields. On the northern coastal strips, the villages a spread along the Java sea. Traditionally the social organization of the islands was based on the village, with each village being completely self-sufficient, providing all the need and function from birth through cremation.
Recently, as in all industrializing countries, the cities and tourist centers are absorbing a portion of the population from the countryside and centralizing, to some extent, the flow of goods and services. the social organization of the villages is one of the most unique aspects of this enchanting island. The village is very much communal unit, almost an extended family. The layout of a Balinese village and life of its member are closely tied to religion and the religious life of the people. The main community organization is the Banjar, which plans all ceremonies, including marriages and cremations, as well as mediates disputes that may arise within the community. Every village has at least one Banjar, which have an average membership of 50 to 100 families. Each Banjar has a central meeting placec, the Bale Banjar.
Special days / Festivals
Every temple and shrine has a special date for annual ceremony, or “Odalan” every 210 days, including the smaller ancestral shrines that each family possesses. Because of this practically every few days a ceremony of festival of some kind takes some village in Bali.
Galungan is literally a celebration of the creation of the universe, in which the Supreme God. Creator of the universe is Worshipped, and all ancestral spirits called to come down to earth and dwell again in homes the family shrines and graceful “Penjor”, tall arching bamboo decorates with palm leaves and flower, as well as small bamboo altars bearing intricately woven palm-leaf “lamaks”, placed at gate of each home.
Ten days after Galungan, this is the day on which the ancestor are bidden farewell with more offerings and freshly woven “Lamaks”, and the barongs take to the roads converting along with their troupes of following children.
Balinese New Year’s day according the caka Calendar this is a day inactivity and silence throughout the the island 24-hour. Fires may not be lit so cooking must be done the day before. Great purification offerings are made in every village on the day before to appease the evil spirits and general exorcism is held. that evening large gangs of children roam the villages dressed in garnish attire and bearing burning torches, chanting and banging on homemade cymbals to scare the evil spirits away. Traditionally the day of nyepi is spent at home fasting, in a prayer and meditation, but only more religious Brahman families follow this custom.
A Special day is devoted to Saraswati, the Goddess of learning science and literature, once a year according to Wuku Calendar. On this day no one is allowed to read or write, and offering are made to the lontar, Palm- leaf books, and books.
Bali Art Festival
Under the initiative of the Governor of Bali, since 1978, the annual Bali Art Festival takes place from the middle of June – July, lasting one month. The main aim of the Festival is for preserving the art and culture of Bali. Expect to see a vast array of Balinese dance and music performance throughout the month long event. The festival takes place in the huge “Art Centre” (Werdhi Budaya) located in the heart of Denpasar and kicks off every year with a grand parade.