Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Temple Tour -- first day

After the barong dance we started touring temples. I did not even try to remember the names of the various temples. Heck, I can’t even remember the names of the towns, much less the names of the temples. But it was a pretty and pleasant drive seeing different parts of the island of Bali. Our tour guide was named Gede (pronounced Guday or good day as the Australians say). Gede used to work for a local travel agency but recently resigned to begin studying to become a Hindu priest. He does occasional tours to supplement his income while he is preparing for the priesthood. This was a great asset for us because our tour guide knew all the inner workings of the temples and could explain the religion in ways we could understand. Gede had rented a very nice small van for our 2 days of touring. Air conditioning worked great so we were traveling in comfort. Michael and Linda on S/V B’Sheret accompanied us on this tour. We have no travel guides for Bali, but Linda has several. So Linda arranged our itinerary. Bill and I were just along for the ride.

At the first temple we rented sarongs and sashes that are required for entry. I had worn a long skirt and Bill had worn long khaki pants, because we knew that visitors to these temples should be appropriately dressed to show proper respect. But almost every temple required each visitor to rent a sarong and sash, regardless of how that visitor was dressed. Each temple had a specific color sarong that was required for entry into that particular temple.

The first temple had a major ceremony last week and there were huge offerings displayed in the courtyard in front of the main temple entry. The colors of the offerings were beginning to fade and some of the offerings were beginning to smell a bit ripe from the fruits and animal by-products used in the manufacture. Pork skins or rind was a popular item used to form faces on some of the larger offerings. Some of these offerings were 6 feet tall and very, very elaborate. One was a barong that was at least 6 feet long and 4 feet high.

After walking through the courtyard we reached the entry edifice. One is always supposed to enter a temple on the left side of the edifice, usually up several or many stone steps. As we entered the main temple area behind the entry edifice, there was a stone statue about 4 feet high with hands posed with both thumbs up with right hand inside left palm , signifying “welcome and best wishes to you. “ Later, as we exited on the right side of the entry edifice, there was a similar stone statue with hands placed palms together and fingers pointed upward. This signifies “peace go with you.” The Balinese believe that everything has a spirit -- sounds like Native Americans, doesn't it? So, therefore, each statue has a spirit. To please the spirits of the statues they "dress" them in cloths. That is why most of the statues are seen wrapped in cloths of various colors. Each color has a special significance.

There were lots of interesting shrines and pagodas and stone carvings inside the main temple area. One brick wall had extremely intricately carved stone patterns. There were too many interesting things to include in this blog or to post photos of everything.

One particularly interesting hanging to us was made of replicas of ancient Chinese coins. We found this interesting because we recently read “1421—The Year that China Discovered the World.” Apparently the Chinese were visiting Bali a very long time ago because many ancient Chinese coins have been found on the island. These artifacts are too valuable to be displayed on the outside of structures within the temples and be exposed to the destructive elements of weather, so replicas have been produced. Each coin is a circle with a square hole in the center. I have no idea what metal was used to make the original coins or the replicas.

Gede explained the peculiarities of the Balinese calendar. A Balinese month always has 35 days. The current kamelon period started in April of 2009 as we westerners know it. After 6 months or 210 days there is kamelon (not sure of that spelling). At the end of another 6 months or 210 days they celebrate another kamelon. That second kalemon completes one Balinese year. They are preparing to celebrate kamelon this month on October 24 of our western calendar and this will be the beginning of a new year. This kamelon is a special celebration for something that occurs once every 5 years. So all the temples are having lots of celebrations.

After the first temple, Gede drove us up to a very scenic spot at the top of a mountain for lunch. Lunch was less than satisfactory (and quite expensive by Bali standards) because it was a buffet and we were very late arriving there, so it consisted of a lot of steam-table dregs. And I got eaten alive on my legs by tiny insects of some sort while we dined on the outdoor terrace. But the scenery was lovely. There was a large crater lake and a double-crater volcano and remains of a large lava flow. The restaurant was on top of an adjacent mountain looking down on the crater lake and the other volcano craters.

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