A Hindu Temple Procession, Ubud, Bali
A Balinese temple procession is a noisy, colourful affair.
Religion permeates Balinese life.
According to Balinese Hinduism – Agama Hindu Dharma – the Gods, natural spirits and ancestral spirits all live on the volcanic mountains while the demons and bad spirits live in the sea. The land between is the humans’ domain, where good and bad spirits battle until eternity. All aspects of daily life try to keep these eternal battles at bay. Every village is built on the line between the mountains and sea, sunrise and sunset and even the main street goes from the mountain-side towards the sea-side. People make offerings on a daily basis to appease the demons, and to honour the Gods and ancestors: in their homes, in front of their shops, on crossroads, on cars, at shrines, and inside the many temples.
There is only one supreme God in Balinese Hinduism: Sanghyang Widi Wasa, but there are countless other Gods and lesser divinities, all of whom are manifestations of the One, and many of whom have special days at the local temples. There are thousands of temples on Bali, each celebrating the various deities, and also having a special “anniversary” celebration once a Balinese year – or once every 210 days.
So, you don’t have to be on Bali long before you come across one of the countless temple processions that are a part of festivals and observances.
When my husband and I arrived at our guesthouse in Ubud in January this year, there was a notice on the chalk board, alerting us to three days of special observances taking place at the Gunung Lebah Temple. We were able to catch a bit of the lively activity on the penultimate evening, and made a point of waiting for the procession out of the temple after the celebration ended the following day.
There was no shortage of colour, noise, and smiling faces.
Temples are everywhere in Bali: this one, across the road from where we were staying was all quiet; the festival was at another temple, a twenty minute walk down the road.
Pura Gunung Lebah
The old temple we were looking for sits where the two branches of the Wos River meet to become the Sungai Cerik.
Gunung Lebah Temple
This historic temple, named for the “small hill” – or gunung lebah – that it sits on, is normally very quiet.
Stairs to the Temple
On festival days, however, …
… the temple is busy with people bringing in offerings …
Dad and his Boy-Child
… and going home with blessings. Everyone wears their best traditional clothes to temple: all the men and boys have their heads covered with an udeng.
All the women, old and young, wear their kebaya; a blouse-dress combination that includes a lace or cotton top with a sash, worn over a sarong.
Temple after Dark
Festival activities continue well into the night.
Another Temple – Another Gate
The next day, as we walk back down the hill to Pura Gunung Lebah, we pass yet another quiet temple – one we hadn’t even noticed the day before. The dvarapala – gate guardians – keep watch.
Transport to Temple
As we walk down the hill, locals make their way to temple to pay their respects.
On the roadside, offerings – made only of organic, biodegradable materials – fill every nook and shrine.
Daddy and Daughter
Daddy and Daughter
Inside a Temple
Continuing down the road, we peek into yet another quiet temple.
Home from the Temple
Finally! We can hear the noise in the distance, and worshippers start returning home.
The procession is a colourful affair, with ornate flags and umbrellas.
The official procession comes in waves, interspersed with pedestrians and normal road traffic.
Kids on the Run
Shopkeepers have put out tables of bottled water for people marching home in the heat; young boys race each other, making sure they don’t miss out.
A Balinese man makes sure the road is cleared before his group marches through. He’s wearing the sacred red (for Brahma), black (for Vishnu), and white (for Shiva), and carrying a kris (curved knife) at his belt.
The procession is noisy, with pipes …
Band in the Procession
… and cymbals and drums.
Hanuman on a Jempana
Hanuman, the divine monkey – a popular character in Balinese Hinduism – is carried through the streets on a gilded wooden litter.
Barong on a Jempana
The Barong, a lion-like creature unique to the mythology of Bali, is the king of the good spirits.
Once the procession has passed, the backed-up traffic resumes …
Scooters in the Street
… and people make their way home.
For our part, we left the jangling noise of the procession behind us, and took to the quiet green of the neighbouring rice paddies.
More of that some other time.