Saturday, December 18, 2010
Visiting the "Fairy Land"-Bali
Visiting Bali was an exceptionally happy experience for me and my wife.We had a three day holiday package with the Ramada Inn Hotel in the weekend of the first week of August. From the time we entered the hotel we felt "at home". Different people have expressed their pleasure after visiting Bali in different ways. For some it is the "fairy land", for others the "happy island" and for some the "last paradise" and for others "the isle of beauty and romance". For us it was the 'eat,pray and love' island.
A lot also has already been written on this beautiful island. Yet I must also record what impressed me most.When we landed at Den Pasar,intuition told me that we were going to have a good time visiting the numerous temples,countryside,forests and beaches in this small island which nourishes a population of several million,80% of whom are Hindus and where life is harmonious and happy. Bali is situated a few degrees south of the Equator and is blessed with a tropical climate.While there is lot of forest area, there are many rice fields in the lowlands and on the sides of mountains. The Balinese are a race who have preserved their original culture and at the same time happily blended it with modernism. They have a very positive attitude towarsds life. They are hardworking and charming. The women are exceptionally beautiful. It is a feast for the eyes to see them carrying baskets of bananas on their heads and flowers in their hands to be offered to their Gods.There is no life without religion for the Balinese.Their temples are dedicated to the spirits of Hindu Gods and to the mountains,lakes and springs.The temples have a distinct architectural style. Their open gates lead to several courtyards. Here one finds pagoda type towers called meru. The Balinese are god-fearing,respectful and celebrate life like happy youngsters hoping for the next day to be still better than the current day.
Our three days were packed with activities.We visited numerous temples.We saw the small village of Batur,which was destroyed in 1926 by a volcano.The stream of lava is supposed to have stopped just in front of the temple doors. We went to a home where the family specialises in wood engravings,then a metal shop and later several shops selling bathik paintings. We watched a lovely cultural programme. It was a short version of the Ramayana. On our last day we went for the traditional Indonesian body massage and face scrub. Ramada Inn had arranged a programme of dance and drama that evening. The dances were classic pieces from Bali's rich dance repertoire. Bali has a wonderful dance heritage. Dance is an integral part of Indonesian culture.Indonesians are literally born, raised and die with art.
We met people of different nationalities and even made some friends. On the last day of our stay,we took an early morning walk on the clean beach. We picked up some seashells for our grandchildren. Sunrise and beauty go hand in hand. As the morning sun's rays embraces the earth, people see the darkness coming to an end. And with that, the beginning of new hope. Once small fishing villages, many of them have been transformed into modern, upscale resort villages. They have boutique hotels,luxurious eateries and avantgarde galleries. Many of these people worship the Sun every morning; what they call Surya Sewana. There are Brahmin priests who conduct the Puja.These mantras wish the well-being of all people and creatures and pray for happiness in the whole universe.
From Benoa to Jimbaran,Tuban,Kuta,Batubulan,Ubud,Waterspring temple in Tampaksiring,volcano,mother temple in Besaki,and then on our return keckak and firedance-it was an exciting holiday. Kecak is a very unique Balinese dance.There is no orchestra but only a choir of hundred men. Then there is the horse(jaran) ritual dance and the dancer is the medium through which the deities and ancestors convey their wishes.There is another dance called Sanghyang Jaran where a boy dances like a horse around a bonfire made from coconut husks. He then enters the fire and dances on the fire.
There are countless Hindu temples in Bali. As per customary law, each village is required to construct and maintain at least three temples.Then there are the nine directional temples located at strategic points across Bali.They are designed in a manner to protect the people from dark and invisible forces.The mother temple of Basakih on the slopes of Mount Agung is the most important of all. Balinese temples dedicated to Hindu Gods and Goddesses have shrines and have a padmasana -the throne of the Supreme Deity.There is a large pavilion which is always left empty to allow the Gods to visit during the ceremonies.You have to be dressed in a sarong and sash to enter the temples.
Three days is a very short period to see and marvel at this wonderful eat pray and love island. Tourism in Ubud revolves around scenic rice-fields, small villages, art and craft communities, ancient temples, palaces and rivers. You see a cornucopia of colours. We will have to come again to Bali to soak in the Balinese warmth while seeing many beautiful spots which we missed during this short holiday.