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Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Mystical Island of Bali (1)

Bali is a small island of over two thousand miles square of extravagantly fertile lands, once believed as part of greater Java, but according to legendary tale was separated by a line, drew by a powerful Brahmin on the sand of narrowest point between the two areas, which became flooded by sea-water, formed a narrow strait about 2 miles width. Thus he provided a secure protection of spiritual water demarcation for any bad influences, prophesied come from Java (and other parts of the world) in the far future. Other legend also told us about the installation of the revered abodes of the Lokapalas on the nine highest points of the island to protect Bali spiritually from all directions. They invoked the great Vedic guardian gods of nine cardinal points to dwell in Bali. The great mount (Gunung Agung), on which slope the Mother Temple of Balinese was built, believed as a part of Himalaya. It is the centre of the world, the abode of devatas, as Kailash or Meru in celestial realm. That is most sacred to the whole island. The halfway up the mountain is the one of most magnificent temple ever built, with its impressive carved stone gates, seven layers of ascending courtyard and hundreds towering sannidhis (shrines) thatched with sugar-palm fibre.

The Map of Bali
The Mother of all temple, with towering sannidhi of sugar-palm fibre roofs

To the Balinese, Bali is the entire world. Shaped spiritually to representing Vedic-Puranic cosmic Bhu-mandala, with Meru as its navel. While the Khmer in Cambodia manifest the same idea in Ankor-vat and the Javanese in Prambanan and Borobudur temples, the whole island of Bali was consecrated as three dimensional mandala itself. The humans, the Balinese, lived with total awareness to other living creatures, as well as other unseen natural forces and their controller or presiding deities. Thus, this small island doesn’t have only population of human beings, animals, and vegetation, but also countless members of spirit worlds. They were the malign spirits, ghosts, ancestors, minor deities of village, lake, river, etc. and great high ranked devatas of Hindu pantheon. Each of them relating to other in such unique way, keep in perfect harmony by various religious activities and ritualistic performance, maintained continuously by the Balinese Hindus.

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