Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Temple Ceremony

Priests sprinkling water and rice
Temple offerings
Girls perched on shoes
Sweat dripped off our noses as we crouched on the temple floor trying to keep our heads lower than the priests and hold our perilously tied sarongs in place while the gamelan music bonged, banged and tinkled, bathing us with wave after wave of exotic sound. Incense wafted through the air mixed with the Balinese ladies perfume, incense, the heady aroma of plumeria and the smells of food stacked in towering offerings and carried atop the women's heads to be proffered to the Gods on this Gamulang day. Booms of far off thunder rolled through the humid air, adding to the aural grandeur of the ceremonial proceedings. Even those (me) half of hearing, thrilled.

The temple was awash with color: lacy ladies garments, masses of flowers and colorful offerings; bangles, earrings and hair decorations flashed in the sunlight. Amid this splendor, mangy Balinese dogs snuffled around looking for crumbs - lean and lanky, scruffy and scowling, they slink around watching and waiting for the opportunity to knock something over and abscond with a morsel.

Bali dog and me in a stare down.

A moment of silence; even the dogs looked up and cocked their heads. A rustling while 50 girls from 7 to 17 stood, arranged themselves in a line and began the temple dance marked by slow bowing movements and exotic twisting turns of the hands and wrists. Most Balinese women are blessed with beauty - gorgeous caramel skin, massive amounts of glossy black hair, even teeth - filed off in the puberty ritual - and perfect posture. Carrying loads on head from an early age results in straight backs, perfect balance and sure footing. Round the offering tables the conga line snaked. I spotted a girl with Down syndrome in the group - the first I've seen on this island where people mostly marry and have children while they're young.

At some cue, a prayer begins: a low thrumming sound of every voice blended together in a single tone. Western religions clutter up prayers with mere words, prattling on and on. This sound seems a better idea to me, surely more acceptable to a God ear, low, peaceful, calm, thankful.

At ceremonies end, priests circulated through temple, sprinkling holy water on heads and dropping a few grains of rice into our outstretched hands, some for eating, some for pressing on the forehead. We all paraded out happily to the sounds of the reassembled gamelan band.

Quite a few people came up and talked with us. The banjar is small and they have seen us walking up the road and taking pictures around the town. Everyone knows everyone and everything and there was lots to talk about as our villa (the one we are renting) was sold yesterday, sight unseen to a Russian musician - he came by in the morning with a translator, saw the outside of all three of the villas in this complex and the inside of only one - made his full price offer ($450,000) which was accepted immediately; the money was wired and in the bank by days end. Our Australian owner is delighted as the villas have been on the market for 8 months. Russian investment around the island is apparently on the move or is this some kind of money laundering? Sight unseen?

More temple offerings


  1. So beautifully described, I can almost see and hear it all. What a wonderful experience!

  2. Did you just add these beautiful photos or was I blind the first time I read this?

  3. Hi. Thanks for reading this...I thought I ran on a little much. Yes, I added the photos yesterday - photos are so hard to manage on a public computer. We took our laptop and there was wireless but we had some kind of
    incompatibility. I had planned to keep posting as we went but I could only do it in Australia. Now I'm catching up.

  4. How awesome that you were able to see their service. What a unique experience!