Secluded from the rest of Indonesia, yet rich in its own culture and beauty, Bali is one of the few islands in the world that has more to offer than a few ludicrously expensive hotels and perfect beaches. The real beauty of the island lies in its history and its people. A cultural phenomenon in itself, Bali is a paradise for the avid wanderer who seeks all that cannot be seen by the naked eye.
Art and Culture
The Arts and Culture of Bali are deeply bound to its long preserved religious rites of Hinduism, which remained the dominant religion in the Island despite the onset of Islam as the dominant religion in the region. One of the many ancient artistic features of Bali is its numerous, unique dances, which are nothing less than iconic in regards to its cultural significance. Balinese dances involve many ritualistic styles and forms that seek to express stories through traditional dance-drama. Often incorporating emphasized gestures of fingers, eyes and facial movements as well as remarkable costumes and striking body paint.
An equally significant aspect of Balinese culture is the beautiful art of Balinese Wayang, or in other words: Shadow Play. Perhaps the most famous show in Balinese theatre, in a Wayang performance, flat cut-out figures are silhouetted against a translucent, rice paper screen, lit by a coconut- husk lamp. Accompanied by a gamelan(traditional ensemble music) orchestra and occasional chanting or singing, these entertaining performances harken back hundreds of years, tapping into religious mythology or well-known Balinese sagas blended with historical facts. This whole show is managed with just one highly skilled puppet master, or dalang.
Bali possesses a strong communal system which sees to the betterment of each and every individual belonging to it. Even though tourism is the island’s largest contributor to its GDP, agriculture is still its biggest employer. Hence, the lifestyle of the Balinese community is mainly centered around agriculture, with the majority of people adhering to the Balinese concept of ‘Tri Hita Karana’: to keep a balance between human and environment, human and human and lastly, human and god.
The Balinese community is often organized in ‘Banjars’, whose purpose is to help each other in social activities such as weddings, deaths, and refurbishment of temple etc. A Banjar often consists of about 150 families, who are all lead by Klian Banjar.
Landmarks and Geography
Despite being barely 0.3% of the total area of Indonesia, Bali boasts a spectacular diversity in terms of its geography. From immaculate beaches to active volcanoes with a landmass surrounded by countless coral reefs, Bali is a place that is truly remarkable. The Island is an absolute paradise for those that seek adventure with countless landmarks strewn all over the island.
Perhaps the most significant of these is Mount Agung. Nearly twice the height of its neighbouring volcano Mount Batur, Mount Agung stands at 3,031m tall, dominating its surrounding area and greatly influencing the rain patterns and the weather conditions of the region. Balinese believe that Mt. Agung is a replica of Mt Meru, the central axis of the universe and the most important temple on Bali, Pura Besakih, is located high on the slopes of Gunung Agung.
Another equally remarkable site is the Pemuteran’s, Hidden Underwater Temple. Contrary to what one might think it is not a complete ruin infested by aquatic life. Deliberately constructed underwater as part of an environmental conservation programme, 10 massive statues and a four-meter-high temple entranceway was sunk 29 meters deep. Years later, marine life has made the temple its home, creating a man-made reef setting that is both impossibly magical and open for discovery.
A delicacy that is central to Indonesian culinary culture is satay, also spelled as sate. This is popular not only in Bali but also across Indonesia and the entirety of Southeast Asia and has many parallels in other nations, such as Turkish shish kebab or South African sosatie. Satay consists of skewers of meat flavored with spices, grilled or barbecued and then served with a number of accompaniments. The skewers themselves are usually made from the midrib of the coconut palm frond or from bamboo and the meat that is placed on them varies widely, although chicken, pork, and mutton are among the most common.
Another popular choice for visitors exploring Balinese cuisine is gado-gado. It is a widely variated dish that is served throughout Indonesia and can work as both the main event of a meal or as an accompanying side. It is found at stalls, from vendors and in restaurants and hotels and a dried mix is often found in shops, meaning that by simply adding water, it is now possible to try and make it for yourself. In essence, gado-gado is a vegetable salad covered with a peanut sauce. There are numerous regional variations, the most significant of which is whether or not the vegetables are cooked or raw; both versions are widely consumed.
Rtr. Putri Gyani Kadek Gyan
Rotaract Bali Ubud