Appeasing the gods …

Temple dances

One of the most alluring art form in the Balinese culture are the dances. Exquisite dance drama performances takes place during temples festivities such as Odalan and Galungan Kuningan. Odalan is a temple festival marking the consecration of a temple and as there are so many temples in Bali with their own anniversaries these can be a daily event each with their own theatrical performances. This means that anytime you visit Bali you can always see these temple dances providing you know where the events take place. The best would be getting one of these local Balinese calendar. It should be noted that contrarily to the western Gregorian calendar the Balinese has two calendars (which can be rather confusing for foreigners) the pawukon is a 210 days (most of the religious ceremonies are set according to pawukon calendar) and the saka calendar with 12 lunar months. Divine deities are believed to descend to temples and dances are performed as an act of devotion honouring these spirit gods. It is also performed during special purification rituals blessings returning the balance of the cosmic order. Galungan Kuningan is another major event celebrated twice a year. Similarly to that of the Vijayadashami Navratri Dussehra Hindu festival in India also celebrated twice a year. These festivals mark the triumph of good (Dharma the good order of the natural law) over evil (Adharma or chaos) symbolized by different gods such as Rama battling Ravana or Durga fighting the demons. Eternal battles of good and evil is a recurring theme in Balinese dances with stories depicted from ancient Hindu epics the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Most popular dance drama are Legong, Pendet, Baris, Calon Arang and the unique Sang Hyang Dedari dance performed by two young girls in deep trance held by two men on their shoulders. The lovable Barong symbolizing the good spirit is another popular dance and is often shown battling Rangda the demon queen of Leaks (mythical creatures of the underworld)

The Barong dance during festivities of Galungan

Balinese masks (topeng) especially those considered sacred are often associated with magical powers – a life force which when used takes over the dancer and he becomes the incarnation of the character he portrays. These masks illustrate legendary kings, warriors, mythical heroes and forces of good and evil.

Mask dance performed in a temple in Gianyar

In Balinese Hindu Dharma there is a strong belief that shapes their culture and tradition known as Sekala and Niskala – the seen and the unseen. Sekala is the material world that which is tangible. Niskala is the immaterial intangible mystical energy that enhances the rituals. These are two inseparable forces that makes Bali so irresistibly attractive with fabulous visuals for any photographers.

Balinese dancers

Colourful costumes and sumptuous pageantry of locals become a spectacular arena of grace and beauty during great temple festivities …

Colourful costumes during a temple festival

Daily dance rituals abound on the island but you would have to be lucky to attend this special dance ceremony in Tenganan a Bali Aga village also known for its Geringsing ikat cloth. I was lucky to be able to see it. The ceremony known as Rejang Ambuang Lemah is performed by young girls and boys.

Rejang dance ceremony in Tenganan Bali Aga village

Categories: Bali, Indonesia

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8 replies »

  1. My schedule was so “off” when I was in Bali. Sadly, I was unable to watch the performances on the dates available. Thank you for the background and photos!

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