Hidden Value in Balinese Tradition

The evidence of the great pilgrimages, Tirta Yatra, are the archeological sites in Pejeng; directly influencing the territory extending all the way along the Petanu and Pakerisan rivers, from the mountain region of Batur to the sea. This still retains its original characteristics and customary features and aspects of the living traditions of Bali. These sites are filled with historic remains and sculptures of incalculable value- the work of heroic people, who have left behind unique solitary places and historic monuments built by anonymous hands under the royal patronage of the kings who ruled over Bali; on a site selected by holy monks who knew a great deal about human beings and the world they live in.

During the Pleistocene period, Bali was part of the Island of Javadwipa. At the end of the Ice Age, Bali was left as isolated as Nusa Bali. Legend has it however, that Bali was not separated by the forces of nature, but by an act of a powerful Javanese Sage, Sidhimantra who severed the easternmost part of Javadwipa from the rest of the island; to banish his son, Manik Angkeran, for having committed a very serious offense. This is said to have taken place a little less than a thousand years ago.

Lord Brahma had predestined that Nusa Bali is placed in a particular position in  Southeast Asia. This region, being close to the equator, is blessed with abundant sunlight and dense tropical rain-forests. It is this condition apparently which causes the skin color of the Balinese people (Bali Mula-Pasek Kayu Selem) to be “hitam manis”, black- sweet. Seemingly, the physical environment has a strong impact on the people’s way of life.

The soul of Balinese culture is Hinduism. It is not a collection of rigid traditions, sastra art, dresta regulations; but continues to be flexible and responsive to the changing time; as long as the essence of its spirit, soul of life, (i.e. the principle of conservation and balance in man’s life with other men, in relationship with Creator, through implementation of Yadnya and Bhakti does not change, and is maintained.

A Cultural Journey: Tirta Yatra

By the late 9th or the early 10th century AD, Bali entered a period of recorded history of its Hindu- Buddhist kingdom, evidence by the findings of various inscriptions and royal gates and patronage.  The first appearance of the name Balidwipa and the King Adipati Sri Kesari Warmadewa based at Singhadwala is in the Blanjong inscription 913 AD, Sanur.

The Dausa inscription dated 942 AD, Indrakila Hill temple, alludes to King Paduka Haji Ugrasena and the terminologies desa and karman as the form of community during that period.

The Manukaya inscription dated 962 AD stated the king Sang Ratu Sri Candrabhyasashingha Warmadewa established a holy bathing place Air Empul or Tirta Empul (spring water at Tampaksiring often related to the mythology of Mayadenawa).

The Dinaya inscription dated 760 AD (East Java) mentioned king Gajayana, a worshipper of Lord Siva, as having established an Agastya sanctum. The Usana Bali chronicle mentions a palace at Singamandawa, and a king named Gaja Wahana (the other name Gajayana); indicating the connection between Bali and Java.

The Mataram Kingdom, under the Sanjaya Dynasty, played a central role in the development of Siwa-Buddha Worship. Sanjaya established a lingga (Phalus) of Sivaism (Cangal inscription 732 AD). His son, Rakai Panangkaran, practiced Mahayana Buddhism. Borobudur Temple was established in 775 AD. Buddhist Hermitages and some terracotta tablets inscribed with Buddhist mantras have been found in Pejeng; corresponding mantras are seen above the doors of Kalasan Temple, Central Java (8th century) confirming a link with the Sanjaya Dynasty.

The most propound influence of Javanese Shivaism-Buddhism cultural elements came to Bali in this period through Tirta Yatra (holy pilgrimages) and a retreat into nature in search of, and revelation of the all pervading forces and spirits of the universe. Attribution of divinity to the great mountain had from early times been central to religious belief.

The arrival of Rishi Markandeya in Bali from Mount Raung in Java,  is an important landmark in Balinese Socio-Religious development. He implanted Panca Datu (five metal elements) at the foot of the Mount Agung (Besakih);  established the cultivation of the land (Sarwada, Taro) through the organized manners of Subak System for the sake of a secure economic life.  He initiated and perfomed the simple Bebali Ritual,  worshiping of Sun God Surya (Suryasewana),  the worshipping of Shang Hyang Rareangon and Shang Hyang Tumuwuh as the guardian spirits of animals and plants, as practiced by Wang Bali Age. The use of Red and White colored temple banners, symbolizing the Sun and Moon, all massive roots anchored in Bali Hindu Sivaism. These are found in Sukawana inscriptions dated 992 AD.

Mpu Sang Kulputih, the prominent ritual specialist at Besakih, issued the litany practiced by the temple priest-gegelaran pemangku; and initiated many ritual procedures in celebration of various ceremonies such as Galungan, Sugian, Tumpek, and Pagerwesi.  He defined prescriptions and taboos calculated to produce magical effigies, Pratima from wood, metal, coin, and Barong and so forth, as symbolic revelations of super natural power.

Bali entered its Classical Golden Age during the reign of the Warmadewa Dynasty. The Batuan inscription dated 1022 AD mentions the name of King Paduka Haji Sri Dharmowangsa Wardhana Marakattapangkaja Tunggadewa, son of Udayana (1022-1926 AD); together with a higher official Senepati Kuturan Mapanji Putuputu.  Mpu Kuturan organized a meeting, “angwangun pasamwan agung Shiwa-Buddhism kalwan wwang Bali Aga, ya etunya hana desa pakraman, mwang kahyanan tiga”. Suggesting that every village should establish Kahyangan tiga: Desa, Puseh, Dalem for the abodes of Brahma, Wisnu, and Shiwa respectively.  Additionally he announced wwang Bali Aga angwangun catur agama, mwang angwangun Sanggah Kamulan at every single house compound. The venue of meeting is known as Samwantiga temple, Bedulu, today (Kuturan Tatwa).  Mpu Kuturan had performed Dewa Yadnya at Sakenan and Besakih.

As Hinduism developed in Bali, there were nine sects that dominated, they were Siva-Sidanta, Pasuphata, Bhairava, Waisnawa, Bhoda/sogata,Brahmin, Resi, Soraya, Ganesh. The few that remain today have extremely valuable ritualistic features melded together into Siva-Sidanta.

The connection between Bali and Java was further strengthened when Airlangga, the eldest son of Udayana, married the daughter of Dharmawangsa Teguh.  Airlangga, was installed as King of Java in 1037.

Dharmawangsa Marakatta (1022-1025 AD) was depicted as protector of his people through a style of legal justice. A statue Bodhisatwa Amogasidi (Kurti) has been associated with him. He honoured Agastya, as said in the scripture: “Painikang sapatha Bathara Punthayang Maharsi Anggasti purwa daksina”, explaining the arrival of Agastya in Bali to teach Siwaism and later Tantrism or Tantrik to the kings. The secret teaching was termed as awyawera.

Anak Wungsu (1049-1077 AD) was deemed, by his subjects, to be the embodiment of the Lord of Virtue. The social life, maritime trade activities, animal husbandry, pottery and other handicrafts were well organized and flourished during his reign.

King Jayapangus (1177-1181 AD), an expert in dharmasastra and intellectual in Hinduism, produced 33 inscriptions during his reign and administration; and was given the honorific title of Brahma Wangsa Sentana, Bapa Juru Kebayan, namely a priest from Trunyan mountains ranges. His inscription revealed a wide variety of customs and traditions and salah pati (committing suicide). The villages of Batur and Cempaga worshiped Lord Ganapati at Tumpek Hyang; but later the village of Cempaga was released from this, as they worshipped the deities of Mount Batur.

King Kertanegara (1254-1292 AD) of Singosari, East Java, conquered Bali in 1284 AD. Kebo Parud was installed as governor representing Singosari in Bali. His inscription dated 1300 AD described the Sukawana village situated on the border of Balingkang.  It also mentions “Mpukwing Dharma Anyar” (Mpukwing the royal palace) converted the title of minister into Jro or Arya (for instance, Sang Arya Aji Kara). Kebo Parud practiced Wajrayana Buddhism (the school of Tantrism in Buddhism).  A Bhairava effigy at Kebo Edan temple, Pejeng, has the same shape as the statue found in Singosari.

The tradition of Bali Arya that ensued from Majapahit rule were those of Theology, Cosmology, literature, art, dance and the most prominent architecture forms such as the massive brick and sedimentary rock gate “candi bentar” and decorative designs  that are prevalent in Bali to this very day. The Spatial Orientation such as Trimandala (horizontal), Triangga (vertical), Ulu Teben, Catus Pata, the epitome of Nawa Sanga are all apparent today as effective guidelines for traditional architectural regulations.

During the reign of Dalem Waturenggong (1470-1550 AD) a legendary Javanese priest, Danghyang Dwijendra (Nirartha) migrated to Bali, establishing numerous temples, Padmasana, instituting many ritual procedures dealing with the life cycle, death ritual and cremation; and erected several Pura Dang Kahyangan. He is the ancestor of the various Brahmana subgroups in Bali today. Bali underwent profound changes in many aspects.

The enlightened tradition handed down from Tirta Yatras, are a collection of values that continue to survive in the living tradition which embodies the main principles or pillars of the Desa Pakraman, adat society of Bali.

image: Besakih Temple 1930s, photographer unknown.

This article is written by Anak Agung Gde Rai’s and has been read in the international symposium on Asian Festival: Ritual, Arts and Performance in San Fransisco, USA, last March 2011.  He is one of the natives who observe culture of his own. He lives in Peliatan, his home village and he erected the ARMA Museum, which is known as “living” museum since they are not just display the artworks but it also provide place for several cultural activities and hosting international events as well. ARMA Museum is located at Jl. Raya Pengosekan, Ubud, phone: (0361) 976659



Add Comment

I'm not Robot *