"Ubud Is My Home" Ubudian's Profile

Introduction

Welcome to my home page and my home which is Ubud. Actually my home is a small traditional village which is part of the greater Ubud area. This village is Bunutan-Kedewatan which lies along the winding Ayung River just northwest of Ubud center.

I'm an American expatriate who has been living here for going on fifteen years. I am married to a Balinese and we have three sons who now enjoy dual American Indonesian citizenship. Bunutan is my wife's ancestral village, thus her entire family lives very close by. When I moved to Bunutan all those years ago, I was the first foreigner to take residence in this very traditional and peaceful little village.

Through my marriage to Ni Nyoman Eri I have become part of a large extended family that have embraced me and consider me one of their own...although I will never be Balinese. My father in law has a large and very busy alang alang business. Alang alang is the grass roofing one sees all over Bali. Much of his alang alang is exported to places as far away as Bermuda and the Caribbean. My mother in law runs a typical warung on the main roan Jalan Kedewatan. From her warung she supplies the local villagers with fresh produce, meats and fish as well as staple items and materials needed to make daily offerings.

My plan with this contribution to the Virtual Tourist is to provide an insider's point of view, presenting Ubud and Bali from a local's unique insight. More importantly and hopefully of use to the tourist, I will present the Balinese people themselves...the way they think, their aspirations, their culture and their way of life. Please be patient as I build this segment and please check back often for updates.

My Family

For the Balinese, family and ceremony are their top priorities. Every Balinese compound will include family and ancestral temples. Unlike in the West where children grow up and move away to start their own family, in Bali, after marriage, the sons will bring their new bride back to their family compound, and a next generation will begin. The cycle is endless and timeless. The cycle of life and death is interwoven in the Hindu/Dharma beliefs of the Balinese. In Bali, it is impossible to distinguish what is secular from that which is religious. For the Balinese, their religion is their way of life.

This is my family, all four generations of them starting with Kumpi, the grandfather, all the way down to his great grandchildren.

The Gamelan Orchestra

Ubud is considered, and likely is, the cultural heart of Bali. It is well known for its artistic traditions both applied and visual. At the heart of all the many villages, or banjars as they are called, is unquestionably the temples or pura. If these villages have a second heart, it is undoubtedly their gamelan orchestra.

Gamelan has its roots in the Hindu traditions of the Majapahit of eastern Java dating back to the 14th century. In Bali, where traditions of the Majapahit were brought from Java, gamelan orchestras can be found in virtually all of its villages. Often, as in my village, Bunutan, there will be several gamelan orchestras...the adult male orchestra, the adult female orchestra and the gamelan anak, or children's gamelan. The gamelan anak is of course the perfect way for the young to learn all the aspects of this most unique and intoxicating musical tradition.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Balinese living is the Balinese devotion to their temples and ceremonies. Most Balinese spend at least as much time with this as they do their endeavors for livelihood. The Balinese have little time to waste. My wife is the leader of our banjar gamelan wanita, or women's gamelan. She plays the ceng ceng which is a small cymbal type of instrument. They practice for at least two hours three nights a week.

Visitors to Bali should not be shy in attending temple ceremonies. Most Balinese hosts will not overtly extend an invitation, as their extreme sense of politeness will prevent them from doing this. However, if a visitor shows interest and asks their host about attending such an event, the Balinese will very gladly and enthusiastically volunteer to take the visitor to such a ceremony, including lending the proper temple attire needed to be worn.

While there are loads of for tourist performances held every night all over Bali, the best way to really enjoy these dance and musical performances is at a temple ceremony. Don't be surprised to find yourself as the only tourist there! But don't be shy either, as the Balinese truly love having "tamu" or visitors at their ceremonies.

Cycle of Life Ceremonies, Part 1

For the Balinese, all living things take part in a cosmic cycle of life which is unending. Birth culminates in death, only to be reincarnated, and the cycle continues. For the first three months after birth, Balinese children belong to the Gods. They are have no name during this time, moreover, they are not allowed to leave the family compound, nor are their feet allowed to touch the ground.

It is at the three month ceremony, the first of many oton ceremonies the Balinese will mark over their entire lives, the baby is truly born to the mother and father. At this first oton, the baby is given their name, their feet first touch the ground, and they select their likely human pursuits by way of the oracle bowl. The oracle bowl contains various items that lend an indication, and a message from the Gods, what the child will most likely pursue in their earthly endeavors. An egg would represent farming, so would a rice husk, a brush or pencil could indicate artistic or academic pursuits, items of gold or silver could be interpreted as good in business, and so on. In this photo, our second of three sons, Rama Wishnu selects from his oracle bowl during his three month oton while under the watchful eyes of the priest, his mother, grandmother and an auntie.

Cycle of Life Ceremonies, Part 2

For the Balinese, it is the tooth filing ceremony which marks the all important transition from child to adult. This ceremony is normally conducted pre-marriage and shortly after puberty. This is a complex and long ceremony which involves several stages during the course of the entire ceremony process, including the filing of the incisor teeth, contrition and atonement to the parents, and purification. This ceremony is always conducted by a high priest with several other temple priests assisting.

As a visitor to Bali, if you are invited to a tooth filing ceremony, you should consider it a very high honor, as only trusted friends and close family are generally allowed. The reason for this is that at certain stages of this ceremony, the persons undergoing the transition to adult are very vulnerable to the forces and influence of evil.

In this photo, our cousin Dewi is having her incisor teeth filed by the high priest. He is assisted by one priest to his right and another to his left, while her grandmother, mother and an auntie hold her hands to her abdomen.

For the Balinese, the incisor teeth are considered fangs, or what they would call, caling. They represent uncivilized or uncouth aspects, and need to be filed down level to the surrounding teeth. By way of the tooth filing, the once child emerges as an adult, and is from that time forward regarded as an adult by the entire village.

Cycle of Life Ceremonies, Part 3

For the Balinese, marriage is much more than a formal ceremony to publicly declare a life long bond between husband and wife. Of equal importance as the wedding itself is the declaration to the ancestors, and the introduction of the new bride to the ancestors of her husband.

For the Balinese, at marriage, the woman follows the man into his family compound. In this process, the woman must inform her family ancestors by way of a ceremony in her family compound. This ceremony takes place at her ancestral and family temple. In addition, another ceremony is needed at the compound of the husband, during which time the husband’s ancestors are informed of the marriage and the new addition of family.

As with all the rites of passage, or ceremonies involving the cycle of life, Balinese wedding ceremonies are most often complex and involve several aspects often taking two days to complete. In addition to the ceremonies at each of the husband and wife’s family compounds, the wedding is also involves a ceremony at the compound of the high priest who calls upon the Gods to witness the union. In this photo, our cousin prays with his new bride at the family and ancestral temples in his family compound.

As in the West, Balinese weddings are a very festive and social event. The reception is generally held the day after the wedding, and generally everyone in the village will attend and enjoy a feast and share the joy of the new couple.

As with the tooth filing ceremony, any visitor to Bali who is invited to a Balinese wedding should be honored and if possible, attend. They are really interesting to watch and to enjoy. As tamu, or guests, you will be very graciously treated, almost to the point of feeling embarrassed for all the attention.

Cycle of Life Ceremonies, Part 4

The final cycle of life, and the start of the next cycle is of course death. There are many aspects to the complete ceremonial process which begins right from the moment of death until final purification of the cremated ashes at sea. Most familiar to visitors to Bali is the cremation ceremony itself, as this aspect of the entire ceremonial process is most elaborate and interesting.

For the majority of Balinese, their cremation will take place during a village, or banjar ceremony which for the average Balinese village is a once every five or so year event. The bodies of the deceased are buried in the village cemetery during the time after death until the cremation ceremony, when whatever is left of the corpse is exhumed for the cremation. At these banjar cremation ceremonies, it is not unusual for as many as 70 or even more deceased to be cremated.

Certain Balinese are not allowed to be buried, and after their death, their bodies are kept in a special room in their compounds awaiting their cremation which usually will be only a few months after their death. Those Balinese are high priests, temple priests, balians, holy men, members of the royal families and members of the highest Balinese caste, the Brahmana caste.

Cremation ceremonies are incredibly expensive and financially draining for the average Balinese...yet, its importance is at the highest level, as without a proper cremation and final purification, the deceased ancestor cannot be reincarnated and the spirit will haunt and curse the remaining living members of his or her family.

This photo shows a bull sarcophagus holding the remains of a deceased in the final stages of cremation at our last banjar cremation in 2005.

  • Intro Updated Jan 28, 2013
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Roy
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Bali, Indonesia
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