Wedding invitation for the A.A.Ngr. Danan Jaya SE and A.A.Istri Mas Taria, B Com., M. Mkg. Mgt wedding at Puri Agung Pemecutan, Denpasar Bali, 26 March 2007.
Ida Bagus Made Dwi Putra Astawa and Ida Ayu Made Satmyadi Manuaba married at GriyaKutuh Kanginan, 23 March 2007
Aum Swastyastu ... Welcome to the Stranger in Paradise

(Published in the Hello Bali Magazine, May 2007)

De Besakih-temple, Bali, Charles Sayers (1901-1943), Courtesy of Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam.

Security and Humidity

I went to my clothes cupboard early last month and found the inhabitants of the bottom shelf – my ceremonial batiks – caked in mould.

Now, finally, the dry season is here and one can contemplate quick costume changes without fear of yeast infection.

Last month I engineered a myriad of costume changes as royal weddings and Brahmana priest ordinations (Pediksaan) piled up. One has to be on the ball in Bali these days, so as not to lag behind the fashion-conscious locals! I’ll let my colleague, Bettina Olivetti, discuss that in more depth – in her new column ‘Bali Fashion’ featured in this month’s edition.

• • •

March-April is Bali’s holy month, the month of Nyepi, when the streets become parade grounds for monster effigies. It is also the month of the tenth full moon when Besakih and Batur temples have their odalan festivals (see illustration of the mother temple, Besakih, above) and the month when many homes and offices have their annual odalan ceremony. All these ceremonies need priests.

Not surprisingly there has been a run on Pediksaan (high priest ordinations) lately as there is a shortage of Brahmana high priests on the Island. Many of the hard-working holy men have been ringing on empty; so demanding are their ceremonial obligations. It is timely then that so many Balinese Brahmanas are entering the high priesthood; it’s quite a lucrative profession too.

• • •

Our office had its odalan on the tenth full moon also (see photo below of Mangku Intaran and, praying beside him, the delectable Puspadewi, our offerings co-ordinator). The ceremony was held in a poetic garden corner and I found myself admiring the way gardeners, security-guards and maids annually transform themselves into choristers and lay priests. I also marvelled at the beauty of the offerings and of the office’s shrine; decorated with woven palm-frond fringes and nestled into a courtyard corner thickly planted with ornamental plants. I pondered on the likelihood of a Balinese ceremony such as this looking as lovely in one of the bland ‘New-Asian’ villas that pass for Bali-homes these days.

Mangku Intaran and Madam Puspadewi

Long live the full blooded and the fancy-free in the world’s most gorgeous culture, I say!

Now read on...

Wednesday, 4th April 2007: to Geria Gede Pejeng for the climax of a priest-ordination ceremony

Some months ago my sister-in-law, Dayu Pejeng, went into hospital for a gall-stone operation. When I visited her, I had the offending stone rattled at me, in its jar, as is the Bali custom.

Visiting that day also was Dayu’s brother – a handsome, worldly man – who mentioned that he was in training for the (pedanda) priesthood.

Today is his ordination, and that of his wife, another tall beauty from this exceptionally beautiful family.

I arrive at the palace at ten am, to find it packed to the gills with friends and family; all in white ceremonial dress. A pediksaan is a very holy ceremony, where novice priests are symbolically ‘put down’ and then re-born with a kick to the head –not particularly Brahmanic– by their Nabeh or guru. The climactic kick had happened a few hours earlier; the newly ordained are now having their first Rsi Bujangga meal (feast-food for high priests) in a pretty pavilion packed with pedandas.

High-Priest Ordaining (Pediksaan) at Griya Pejeng

The newly ordained priests offer a sembah of gratitude to their Nabeh (guru).

Ida Pedanda Gede Made Gunung

The newly ordained priests, Ida Pendanda Istri Temuku and Ida Pedanda Gede Buruan

Ida Pedanda Gede Made Gunung, the people’s priest and star of the Bali TV Dharma Wacana programme, is holding court as official advisor to the proceedings. A phalanx of novice pemangku (village or lay priests), all ladies, are gathered at the foot of an adjacent pavilion; they are all from the pemangku school in North Denpasar I am surprised to hear.

Bebaru retainers, the pedandas’ ceremonial aides-de-camp, line the temple’s stairs, clutching their masters’ gold-handled walking sticks.

“Time for a bebarus’ Union.” I joke with jovial Pedanda Gunung.

After their meal, the new pedanda and his wife, now a pedanda istri, take leave of their guru, Ida Pedanda Gede Manuaba. She has a new Minnie Mouse hairdo that signifies her demi-deified status. They offer a solemn salute now as fully fledged priests, not students. The officiating priests, watching from their pavilion perch, beam with pride.

Dayu’s Australian family

Sunday, 15th April, 2007: Perth and Denpasar are twinned
My other sister-in-law, the indefatigably merry widow, Dayu Gede, who works as a high-school teacher in Kuta, has returned from a week in Perth, Australia. It was her first trip overseas. Her impressions of Australia are fascinating:

    1. McDonald’s drive-thrus are much bigger in Perth.
    2. The McMansions that line the Swan River are “bigger than Besakih”.
    3. “It was very cold at night: I had to wear three jackets.”

There are two photos from her trip that are particularly poignant (both reproduced on this page). One shows Dayu standing in the shade of a giant desert yucca. The other is of her host family’s young girl, dressed as a Balinese page, on her way to an imaginary Hindu temple.

Good Bali–Australian relations are forged and solidified through these community level contacts – and a bit of hanky-panky in Legian I must add – which I believe do a lot more for regional peace than the posturing of politicians.

Dayu Gede in Perth

Tuesday, 10th April 2007: a breakthrough in my conspiracy theory
Someone in Bali recently sent me a glossy new ‘Exotiq’ in-house real estate Magazine which, despite its name, is a catalogue of rather drab villas for sale, interspersed with examples of the White Supremacist style advertising so popular on the Island these days. One ad says “Buy a Villa and help a class of Balinese students …… so they don’t need to work in rice-fields, perpetuating the family’s poverty.”

Formulaic Villa with scatter-Buddha (Courtesy of Hello Bali magazine)

Admittedly, the nice people at Exotiq, arguably the Island’s most professional real estate company, mean well. They do not really intend to re-style Bali as a rich man’s Biafra: they just haven’t bothered to notice that Balinese children have been merrily working the rice fields with their fathers and mothers and uncles and aunts for 2,000 years.

It is not “Blood Diamonds up the Mekong,” boss!

Imagine if Balinese families went to Texas and bought up strips of property in the middle of the wheat fields and built gin-palaces and then took out ads saying: “Buy a villa in Texas and help keep the youth of America off crack cocaine!”

• • •

Amazingly, as I’m writing this, I discover a Liam Fitzpatrick article in the latest Time Magazine, entitled ‘Vive la Difference.’ In his article, Fitzpatrick bemoans the recent trend in boutique hotel design.
“Your room will look as if it were put together by Balinese decorators after a long day brainstorming with brand managers from Body Shop,” he writes. (The added tragedy here is that Fitzpatrick is not referring to Balinese who decorate but to the new wave of anally- inclined Zen-warrior decorators from Brisbane, Berlin and Baltimore).
“You might have thought that travel publishers and style professionals would be thunderous in their denouncement of such conformity,” Fitzpatrick continues, “but they are its ideologues.”
One book, ’Asian Chic’ (Taschen, 2003) did highlight the region’s diversity but it was lost in a sea of mediocre minimalism.

Let’s all gather behind Fitzpatrick’s brave call to arms, I say! Let us not accept blunt buffs of bulrush where gorgeous corms of gladioli once reigned.

Stand up and be counted, colourists!

Fight them on the benches, Pilates-pluralists!

Get yer Ya-Yas out for God, who loves colour and movement and all things bright and beautiful in the garden.




Ciao Bella, Ciao Bello, Ciao Bali!
You know, darlinks, the Balinese are nothing if not fashion-conscious. Even the high priests are adding trim to their turbans (see photo left; note fancy trim on shoulder band too!).
This month I spotted many fashion trends across the island (clockwise from above right): RETRO CHIC: At a Denpasar palace wedding the young bride and groom chose classic songket puri sashes to highlight their beautifully tailored white jackets and chemise; LOOSE AND LAYERED: Ida Bagus Gede Tegal – the Beau Brummel of Balinese Brahamanas – at the Denpasar wedding in classic Central Javanese batik turban and 19th century patterned chequered sash with supplementary gold songket print (very fashionable at the moment); LACY AND LOVELY: sisters at a priests’ ordination (pedikasaan) in pretty Pejeng village chose white chemises with heavy lace borders teamed with opalescent-hued satin fanny-packs and traditional Balinese jewelry (very classy); EAST BALI CLASSIC: young Brahman couple in Gelgel, Klungkung, chose regal Hindu orange and purple as their theme colours (note the bright orange kain nusa sash); the his and hers head-dresses and jewelry are Klungkung (East Bali) style; SWAN LAKE EXTRAS: at Gelgel wedding the brides family wore see-through ruby-red embroidered chemise (the rage in Java’s palaces this month).



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