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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Rerajahan: Sacred Drawing

Religious symbols, icons, or signs can be found in surprisingly numerous numbers in Bali. Surprisingly? Since they are perfectly interwoven in everyday Balinese life, one hardly realizes their existence. Some religious symbol can easily be recognized, for example Rerajahan. Rerajahan is the most obvious and easily recognized Balinese religious symbol.
Rerajahan is a drawing of sacred characters or images on a piece of cloth, metal plate, pottery, leaf, fruit, wood, weapon, basket or skin. The drawing of the rerajahan can be categorized into 11 groups:
1. Drawing of holy characters (vijaksara) or short incantation
2. Drawing of sun, star or moon combines with holy characters
3. Drawing of flower, especially lotus flower with holy characters on its petals

4. Drawing of animals such as tiger, crocodile, lion, snake or dragon
5. Drawing of human or part of human body
6. Drawing of distorted human body such as human with animal head, animal with human head, or human without head
7. Drawing of gods and goddesses, with their weapons and vehicles.
8. Drawing of distorted gods or goddesses or in their angry personifications.
9. Drawing of gods’ weapons combines with holy characters.
10. Drawing of demons, spirit or strange creatures; sometimes equipped with their weapons.
11. Drawing of sacred buildings
Rerajahan serves various purposes range from inviting the gods to descend to mortal world to harming or killing the enemy. Basically, the functions of rerajahan can be categorized as follow
1. to get protection and magical power from the god that is drawn in the rerajahan for example the power to prevent rain
2. to purify the body and soul
3. to enhance the spiritual power of someone or something
4. to get a unique talent or power, for example ability to run fast or can not be seen
5. to get sympathy or admiration from other
6. to drive away pestilence, or bad luck
7. to protect the house compound, rice field, village or children
8. to prevent or negate physical or magical attack from the enemy
9. to harm or kill the enemy

In order to fulfill these various functions the rerajahan have to be invested with a power. A powerful rerajahan is made on an auspicious day with specific offerings and of course a qualified rerajahan maker. After the drawing process is finished the rerajahan is invested with magical power by its maker by using Pasupati mantra (pasupati incantation).

source :

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Balinese food

Balinese traditional food is different from Indonesian food. In tourist areas you will not find many dedicated Balinese restaurants, but once out of the tourist scene its everywhere. Here is a quick look at Balinese food.

Balinese food is hot and spicy (pedas), as well as being peppery. Very often served cold, it reflects the village lifestyle, where people eat by themselves, when they are hungry, instead of a formal family meal. Coconut is central to Balinese cooking and religious ceremony. Coconut is grated and the meat (nyuh) is squeezed to produce a cream, which is added to many local dishes. Coconut oil is used to fry food.

Stopping at one of the thousands of roadside stalls in Bali you might try a plate of tipat cantok. This dish includes lontong, the compacted, rolled rice, cut into chunks, peanuts, lime juice, chilis, sprouts and other items, ground using a pestle and mortar.
In most villages the markets take place every 3 days. Sellers will have fruit, vegetables, beans, grain, you name it. Some of the fruits you will find on sale include, zirzak, salak, jeruk (pink are the best), nangka, blimbing (starfruit), durian, mangosteens, breadfruit, passion fruit (from Kintamani), white mangoes (wani). Of the vegetables you will find, that may not be common to westerners, are greens (kangkung), edible ferns (paku), acacia leaves (twi), tapioca leaves (ketela pohon),
One local snack you can find all over Bali, are Sweet potatoes (ubi), palm sugar, coconut and ketchup.

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Ngaben, Ceremony for the Death

Ngaben, or Cremation Ceremony, is the ritual performed in Bali to send the deceased to the next life. The body of the deceased will be placed as if sleeping, and the family will continue to treat the deceased as sleeping. No tears are shed, because the deceased is only temporarily not present and will reincarnate or find his final rest in Moksha (freeing from the reincarnation and death cycle).
The proper day of the ceremony is always a matter of consulting a specialist on ceremony days. On the day of the ceremony, the body of the deceased is placed inside a coffin.
This coffin is placed inside a sarcophagus resembling a buffalo (Lembu) or in a temple structure (Wadah) made of paper and wood. The buffalo or temple structure will be carried to the cremation site in a procession. The procession is not walking in a straight line. This is to confuse bad spirits and keep them away from the deceased.
The climax of Ngaben is the burning of the whole structure, together with the body of the deceased. The fire is necessary to free the spirit from the body and enable reincarnation.
Ngaben is not always immediately performed. For higher caste members it is normal to perform the ritual within 3 days. For lower caste members the deceased are buried first and later, often in a group ceremony for the whole village, cremated.

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Galungan Day

Galungan is a Balinese holiday that occurs every 210 days and lasts for 10 days. Kuningan is the last day of the holiday. Galungan means "When the Dharma is winning." During this holiday the Balinese gods visit the Earth and leave on Kuningan.
Occurring once in every 210 days in the pawukon (Balinese cycle of days), Galungan marks the beginning of the most important recurring religious ceremony that is celebrated by all Balinese. During the Galungan period the deified ancestors of the family descend to their former homes. They must be suitably entertained and welcomed, and prayers and offerings must be made for them. Those families who have ancestors that have not yet been cremated, but are still buried in the village cemetery, must make offerings at the graves.

Although Galungan falls on a Wednesday, most Balinese will begin their Galungan 'holiday' the day before, where the family is seen to be busily preparing offerings and cooking for the next day. While the women of the household have been busy for days before creating beautifully woven 'banten' (offerings made from young coconut fronds), the men of our village usually wake up well before dawn to join with their neighbours to slaughter a pig unlucky enough to be chosen to help celebrate this occasion. Then the finely diced pork is mashed to a pulp with a grinding stone, and moulded onto sate sticks that have been already prepared by whittling small sticks of bamboo. Chickens may also be chosen from the collection of free-range chickens that roam around the house compound. Delicate combinations of various vegetables, herbs and spices are also prepared by the men to make up a selection of 'lawar' dishes. While much of this cooking is for use in the offerings to be made at the family temple, by mid-morning, once all the cooking is done, it is time for the first of a series of satisfying feasts from what has been prepared. While the women continue to be kept busy with the preparations of the many offerings to be made at the family temple on the day of Galungan, the men also have another job to do this day, once the cooking is finished. A long bamboo pole, or 'penjor', is made to decorate the entrance to the family compound. By late Tuesday afternoon all over Bali the visitor can see these decorative poles creating a very festive atmosphere in the street.
On Wednesday, the day of Galungan, one will find that most Balinese will try to return to their own ancestral home at some stage during the day, even if they work in another part of the island. This is a very special day for families, where offerings are made to God and to the family ancestors who have come back to rest at this time in their family temple. As well as the family temple, visits are made to the village temple with offerings as well, and to the homes of other families who may have helped the family in some way over the past six months.
The day after Galungan is a time for a holiday, visiting friends, maybe taking the opportunity to head for the mountains for a picnic. Everyone is still seen to be in their 'Sunday best' as they take to the streets to enjoy the festive spirit that Galungan brings to Bali.
The date for Galungan and other special Balinese days is shown on the Balinese Calendar.

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