Full Moon Ceremony at Serangan Village
28 April 2010 | Serangan, Bali
We have been in Bali for about a week now and have been settling in slowly, spending time with our friends in Serangan. It has been fantastic to see Made Suka and his family again and it wasn't long until we were invited to a ceremony at their local temple. The ceremony marked the full moon and would include the local village dance troupe performing the Barong Dance. The beauty of being invited to go and witness this is that it is not a touristy thing, it is purely for the people of the village and in our case, their invited guests.
We packed a bag of what we felt was appropriate attire to attend temple, sarongs and shirts covering shoulders, we needn't have bothered. We arrived at the Suka household to a flurry of activity, the family was getting ready for temple. Mama Nina, Suka's wife bustles towards me with a sarong like garment briefly saying hello as she readies me for temple. Gruffly she orders me to strip down in a room full of people and begins to wrap the long sarong around my body. I look to Jay helplessly but he is going through the same process on the other side of the room so I just relax and go with the flow. The Suka's are the proud parents of four daughters despite their best efforts to produce a son, they do however now have a grandson. Their youngest daughter Navee follows me around staring, she does not speak any English and is reluctant speak to us in Bahasa, when I catch her eye she looks away smiling shyly. Their other daughters rush in and out, yelling their hello's but not really wanting to hang out with their folks. It takes a little while to find a jacket to fit me, their daughters are so tiny that I cannot slip my arms into the sleeves whereas Mama Nina is a little better endowed in the chest area than I am. Finally we find one and with the help of some safety pins it is fitted to me. A sash is tied around my waist and Mama Nina puts some frangipanis in my hair nodding in approval at the bun I have secured my hair into.
As with everything in Bali there is a story behind the way the Balinese dress for temple. The temple dress is called 'adat dress', the legend is that Brahma created the world and then he created the people but they were naked. Kala the destroyer ate them and this distressed Wisnu the preserver. He sent some gods and goddesses to earth to civilise man. One of them was Ratih, goddess of the moon and she taught men how to weave clothes from vegetable materials which is how the woven cloth we see the Balinese wearing came about.
The cloth worn by men and women to temple is called a 'kamben' not a sarong as westerners choose to call them, a sarong refers to casual wear. Kamben are worn differently by men and women, men wrap and fold in the front, it is then tied in the centre while women wear the kamben tightly around their hips and tie it on the left hand side at the waist. The women also wear a coloured sash called a 'sabuk' and a long sleeved lacy blouse called a 'kerbaya'. Until the 1930's Balinese women went to temple topless but the Dutch persuaded them to cover up. Thank goodness, I've already stripped down to a g-string in front of strangers I'm glad I didn't have to show off my boobs at temple! To finish off the men's outfit they wear a short, flat piece of material over the kamben called a 'saput' and an ordinary white collared shirt is worn (although I have seen some locals getting around in white t-shirts emblazoned with the Starbucks logo!). Topping the outfit off is what is known as an 'udeng', this is a headdress which Jay already had. He was given one by a former Indonesian Idol finalist, Fernando in Kupang a couple of years ago. This is a complex piece of the outfit and is deeply symbolic. The vertical part at the front called 'jambul' symbolises Siwa. The part wrapped around the head like a half moon or the sun is the symbol of Brahma. I am very glad that the Suka family was on hand to help us, we would have been very lost otherwise.
We left for temple with Suka and Navee, Mama Nina stayed behind as women are not permitted in the temple at a certain time of the month. Suka and Jay walked ahead talking while Navee stayed by my side to make sure I was alright. Villagers called out greetings and several things we didn't understand but that elicited a laugh from Suka meaning they were making fun of us. We followed a procession of villagers in their colourful outfits into the temple. Inside it was surreal, the light from several fluorescent lights casting an eerie glow over the faithful as they knelt on the paved courtyard in front of several shrines. Submitting their offerings and praying they then kneel patiently and wait for the Balinese priests to sprinkle holy water taken from Mount Agung onto them and place rice on their foreheads. The courtyard is such a magical looking place but it is a shame to see the usual array of plastic bags covering the ground.
With the formalities out of the way we moved to a different section of the temple compound where the locals gathered for the dancing. The dance to be performed was the Barong Dance. The Barong is a mythical shaggy half dog, half lion creature with big fangs and bulging eyes, it is considered the lord of the forest and the magical protector of Balinese Villages. Two men manoeuvre the costume to reflect the playful nature of the Barong, the costume itself is very heavy with each man carrying about 50 kilograms on their shoulders and they require the help of several men to remove it. The Barongs opponent is Rangda, an evil witch who rules over the spirits of Darkness. The Barong Dance tells of the age old struggle between good and evil. The Barong prances around like a playful puppy revelling in the attention of its supporters while Rangda is also a shaggy looking character with long hair, a long lolling tongue and big fangs, she flicks a white cloth around her shoulders and across her arms which represents human entrails. She throws her hands in the air and shrieks loudly. A duel generally ensues and eventually Rangda is defeated. Good triumphs over evil once more.
Watching the locals sitting around is just as interesting as watching the dancing. The children begin to learn the dances at an early age and so we watched tiny children dressed in their temple outfits copying the movements of the dancers. Teenage girls sat around texting their friends, while mothers took the opportunity to catch up with the local gossip. A steady procession of people came to say hello to us and many remembered us from 2 years ago. Suka proudly introduced us as his brother and sister, they couldn't have made us more welcome if they tried. Kids came up and posed for photographs and giggled as we revealed the images to them. Too soon it was over and under the light of the full moon we headed back to the Suka residence, walking and talking among the crowd and feeling a part of the community. We are very fortunate to have friends that will share their lives with us in this way. We have been coming to Bali for years and finally we feel like we are getting to the heart of it.