Monday, February 02, 2015

No time to be Hindu

"Another ceremony?" I asked Wayan on our way to the airport.
Women were carrying offerings on their heads alongside the road.

"Every day," he answered with a sigh. "It used to be that we had so much time....we could do everything. If my grandparents needed to eat, they'd take a chicken from the road and eat fruit from the trees. Nobody had to worry about eating."

"Now," he said with resignation, "We don't have time to be Hindus."

During our time on Bali we heard this same sentiment many times. Modern life is encroaching rapidly on the island - the place is crowded with tourists and cars and cell phones. It's not like it was even a scant five years ago.

"Many people are becoming Christians," Wayan went on. "Christians have to go to church once a week and that's it! For us, it's all day, every day - and it's not just the time, it's expensive. Flowers, offerings to other people in the Banjar, food. We can't afford to do it anymore. We have to worry about educating our children for the future."

The two women who took care of the Villa Kalisha where we stayed spend all their spare time making offerings. They sit on the floor braiding palm leaves into small baskets and fill them with flowers, small pieces of food like rice, sometimes a piece of chewing gum. There's a bottom-line number of these offering required for certain ceremonies. On the particular day I talked with them, they had to make 40 each for the next day.

Made told me that a woman cannot work, raise a child and live up to the ceremonial demands. Only if you have a mother or mother-in-law willing to look after the kids can you do it. In her case, villa work allows her some free time between guests and during the days to get offerings made. 

Who knows where the situation will go. The Hindu rituals are altered regularly when the public need is strong enough. Recently they decided on Bali that the dead could be brought home and into the home no matter what the cause of death - even suicide. It used to be that you had to conduct the "last rites" in cases like these, outside the home, still in the Banjar, but in the street. How awful for mourning families.

Much of what I've loved about Bali is the animist Hindu religion with all it's beautiful ritual.  Balinese Hinduism requires daily effort to keep the natural and supernatural - opposing forces in balance with offerings, dance, paintings, sculpture, music, fine temples and rituals. 

Change is inevitable. I wonder what lies ahead for them. 

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