Bali Way of Life
8 February 2011

In Bali, art, culture, religion and the tradition is a unity. Art derive from culture, culture based on the religion, and the religion is their tradition, and the tradition is their way of life.

No day without offering, no week without ceremony, and no month without big festival, that is the Balinese way of life, all the activities always started by the offering or ceremony, when you walk along the street in Bali, you will see offering which is made of flowers ( called canang sari ) every where.

bali holidayIn the front of the houses, entrance gates, In the front of the shops, in almost every road conjunction, at the some of big trees, statues, just spread away every where. that is way the people call Bali as the island of the God. The main function of the offering is the symbol of the thanks giving. They make the offering both for the God and the evil or bad spirit, God is the place where the ask the prosperity, safety, and blessing, while the evil for them is not a friend and not enemy because the God create and give them chance to live, so Balinese believe they have to life side by side in harmony, they offer the offering to the evil just to make them, quite, calm and not disturb their activities.

bali templeWhen you see the offering on the ground or street mostly for evil, if for the God usually they put higher like in the shrine or temple. But in general the ceremony of Hindu Balinese can be divided in to 5 kind of ceremonies which is call panca yadnya. Panca means 5 and yadnya means holy sacrifice, such as: Dewa yadnya, Pitra yadnya, Resi yadnya, Manusa yadnya, and buta yadnya. Dewa yadnya means the ceremony for the god, such as temple festival etc. Pitra yadnya means the ceremony dedicated for the ancestors such cremation ceremony etc. Resi yadnya means the ceremony for the priest , usually done when they have ceremony and they ask the help of the priest to lead the ceremony , after that they will give something to the priest as their thanks giving, that is one of Resi yadnya. Manusa yadnya means the ceremony for human being, such as megedongan gedongan ( the six months old of the pregnant ), nyolongin ( the purification ceremony for the baby and parents before they can enter the temple ), Ngedinanin ceremony ( 1 month old of the baby ), Nelu bulanin or nyambutin which is means welcome to the world ( for the firts time the baby can touch the ground ), tooth filling ceremony , wedding ceremony etc.

Balinese also have many holiday, for Balinese holiday doesn't means day off, but holiday is the holy day, the day for the people to go to the temple to offer the offering and praying, most of the holiday based on the calendar of the moon, Balinese use solar and lunar calendar to decide the good day or the holiday. In the daily life they always look at the calendar when they want to do something, like when they want to start planting something or build a house etc, for them every day is a good day and every day also a bad day, all the day have a good side and bad side, good for what and bad for what, for example may be to day is a good for planting rice but bad for any other activities. There are some important Balinese holiday such as:

  • GALUNGAN : the day to celebrate the victory of the goodness against the badness, every 6 month, according to the Balinese calendar.
  • SARASWATI DAY : the holiday for education or knowledge. every 6 month, according to the Balinese calendar.
  • TUMPEK KANDANG DAY : the holy day for animal, in this day they will make offering for the animals as the symbol of the thanks giving to them. every 6 month.
  • TUMPEK LANDEP : the holiday for iron or weapons, in this day they will make offering for the iron or weapon as the symbol of the thanks giving to them. every 6 month.
  • NYEPI DAY : The Balinese new year, nyepi derive from word sepi, which is mean silent, fasting for 24 hours, is not allowed to go out from house, no fire, no works. In this day Bali island very quite and dark, no cars, no motor bikes, no electricity, celebrated every year, usually fall in march or April.

And many other holidays. In the daily life, what ever they do the Balinese always look at the tri hita karana concept, which is mean they have to keep a good relationship between human and human, human and the god, and human with the nature, almost all the law in bali based on this concept.

The Balinese life in the community, mutual help each other, when one of the community member have a ceremony, all the community member will come to help them, the community will have their community hall, the place to solve problem, the cemetery, for cremation or bury the corpse.

In Bali the cemetery is free but you must be the member of the community, and the community is also having their own temples. The community is also having their own rule how to keep the good relation each other. If the human to the god for example they always give the offering every day, and how to keep the good relationship between human with the nature, they have a law which is not allowed to build higher than 15 meters or higher than coconut trees, that is also the way how to keep the holiness of the temple, so the people not sleep higher than the god, they always put the things in the right place, where is holy and where is dirty, where is head (holy ), body and legs (dirty ) same like when they build a house, the family temple must be built in the north east direction of their house compound, because north east for the Balinese is the holy direction, where the sun rising from, and also because the biggest and the most important Hindu Balinese temple, or the people call it as the mother temple, located in the slope of Mount Agung which is lies in the north east of the Bali island. For Balinese mountain is a holy places where the god life, if they sleep their head always to the mountain direction, and in the middle of the house compound is the living quarters and in the south west is the dirty area , such as toilet, drying laundry, the pigsty, etc.

But now days the Balinese who stay in the town, sometime they don't have enough space of land to make this building concept, so usually they will build two or three floors house and they build the temple in the top of their house. In Bali you can fine so many temples, every where whole around the island, people call Bali as the island of god, but generally the temple in Bali can be divided in to 5 kind of the temple, the temple classified depend on the worshiper and the caretakers of the temple, such as :

  • FAMILY TEMPLE, this temple is built just use for one family only , in Bali when the people get marriage they will built new house compound and they also have to built their own family temple , the function of family temple is to worship the ancestors.
  • GENEOLOGICAL TEMPLE , this temple is built for the people who have the same blood line , in Bali they follow the man blood line, the function of this temple is the same like family temple, but this temple is for the big family.may be more than 50 or 100 families.
  • TERITORIAL TEMPLE , this temple is for the people who live at the same village, in each village in Bali they must built 3 temple for the trinity god, such as Desa temple for brahma god as the creator symbolize by fire, Puseh temple for Wisnu god as the preserver symbolize by water, and Dalem temple for siwa god, some people call siwa god as the destroyer, but some people also call as a recycler, to return all the god creation back to the origin, in Balinese call it "Pelebur".
  • FUNCTIONAL TEMPLE, this temple built for the people who have the same profession or the same job, e.g. the temple for farmer, student etc, almost every profession have their own god.
  • PUBLIC TEMPLE, this temple is built for every body, no matter which village are they from, what job do they have, just every body can come and pray in the public temple. Most of the temple in Bali have 3 yards what they call tri mandala, because they believe to 3 worlds, bhur , buah, swah, or evil, human, and the god. first yard of the temple is used to do sacrifice ceremony to the evil, the second yard is the places to prepare the ceremony or the offering, and usually they also have kitchen in the second yard, and the third yard is the holiest yard , consist of many the pagodas and shrines, as the place for praying.

About 40% of the Balinese is farmers, 25% working in tourism industry, 10% for the government, 20% traders and business man, 5 % others. usually each area in Bali, like west Bali, middle Bali, south Bali, east Bali and north Bali have deferent job, the job what the people have very much depend on the nature, west, east, middle Bali mostly farmers but each area growing something different depend on the soil and climate, and in the south is more works in tourism. In Bali the farmers can harvest the rice 2 till 3 time a year, the farmers have an organization system which is call subak, the Bali island have enough water to irrigate the field. Rice is the main food for them, they eat rice 3 time a day, usually they cook only once in the morning for the whole day.

Each area of Bali have their own accent, a little bit different way of life, almost every village in Bali have their own art specialty, or some time they have same type of art but different style each other, almost every Balinese man know how to play the Balinese music or Gamelan, and almost every Balinese women knows about how to dance even they are not become a dancer, the arts pass down generation to generation as their tradition.

In Bali you also can find caste system, the caste system in Bali they call Tri Wangsa or Tri Warna. Tri means 3 and wangsa means group and warna means color, so tri wangsa means 3 classification of the Balinese, such as Brahmana, Ksatria , Jaba. Brahmana is the Priest group or family, Ksatria is The Royal family or who ever they are who works for the kingdom, when Bali were kingdom in the past, and Jaba is the common people , farmers, labors, business man, or traders. Each group have their own name, if they are the man from Brahmana, all the man name will be started by Ida Bagus...(followed by their real name), women started by Ida Ayu...(real Name), if Ksatria their name will be , Agung, Gusti, Dewa, if women just plus Ayu and followed by their real name, and the most Balinese are jaba (the majority) their name will be :

  • The first born will be Wayan or Gede or Putu ( they have to choose one of those names ).
  • Second born are Kadek or Made or Nengah.
  • Third born are Komang or Nyoman.
  • Fourth born is Ketut.

The different between man and women just when they write down their name, if they are man will be started by I, like I wayan or I kadek etc. and if women started by Ni, like Ni Wayan or Ni Made etc. When they speak to the higher class or older man they will use a very polite word.


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