Travel & Learn | A fascinating insight into the Gods, people & Demons of Bali.
26.05.2012 - 06.06.2012 -29 °C
One of the first things that grabs your attention in Bali, as ‘odd’ or ‘strange’ is the small baskets made from leaves on the ground on pavements, in front of shops & in small temple like shrines everywhere you look.
These baskets contain an assortment of leaves, flowers, ferns, flowers, incense sticks and always something consumable such as biscuits, soft drinks, sweets & or even cigarettes.
Obviously a religious offering of some sort so the instinct is to steer clear of these baskets so as to avoid stepping on them. But then the curiosity is aroused when you see them being cleaned up with brooms into a drain or garbage bin. I could not contain my the question (What are these and what do they symbolize?), when I saw a policeman walk up to one of these baskets inside a small shrine and light up a cigarette from one of the incense sticks! (Yes, that deserves an exclamation mark)
On the face of it, the answer is simple, ‘it is an offering, but not to the Gods but to the ‘Demons’ . Demons from the underworld, who reside beneath the surface and in the sea.
The Demons like to ‘eat, drink & smoke’ (the lines between the real and spiritual world are blurred) and so if they are kept satisfied, they will not bother us.
Suddenly, all the strange looking statues you get to see on every street corner start to make sense. These are the demons, that need constant appeasement.
Balinese Hinduism is a unique blend of Indian Hinduism, Buddhism & Animism resulting in animal based manifestations of the Gods & Goddesses.
Some familiar. Some not so.
More importantly the terrain of the island is seamlessly bundled into the Balinese form of Hinduism. Bali is home to ‘mountains’ with active volcanoes, the plains & the sea. In simple terms, the Gods & Goddesses, reside in the mountains, the Demons reside underground and in the sea & mortals live in between (plains).
However, given the spirit of reincarnation, ‘death’ is essential and to come back in a desirable form, it is vital to keep the ‘demons’ happy.
What is more, the architectural language of the temples is influenced by the demonic behaviour.The Balinese Demons are only capable of moving in straight lines and therefore most of the temples (every home has one) have walls that are ‘straight’.
They have corners, but no curves. So that when a demon hits a wall, it returns back to the sea, hopefully, not to return for a long long time.
While all of this is fascinatingly different from the ‘traditional’ Hinduism, what I found most interesting about the people of Bali is the irreverent nature of their interaction with the Gods, particularly the Demons.
Disclaimer :: this article & its contents are purely based upon what the author has gleaned as from common knowledge on his travels and does not intend to be ‘authoritative & accurate’.