The Balinese Way of Baby Registration
The Balinese take tiny toddlers, sometimes barely a year old, to major temple festivals to complete ‘Mapinton’ rituals — that is to ‘register’ with the temple’s gods; to open an ‘account’, as it were.
In fact Balinese ‘babies’ of all kinds have to register in this way. Village mascots, like the barong, once ‘reborn’ — after sometimes centuries in the garage — are taken to all the major temples at which they are affiliated, to do MAPINTON rites also.
Even the barongs support team — the various kris-dancers and celestial nymphs (telek) — go through the MAPINTON ‘initiation’ rituals with their ‘masters’.
Ida Bagus Darendra celebrates his Dalem Sakenan MAPINTON with his parents, Dewa Ayu Heni Yusnita and Ida Bagus Eka Adi Putra at Pura Dalem Sakenan Temple
The driver of the sacred pedati chariot that greets the gods on their return from Turtle Island.
Last month, my nephew’s baby boy was taken to Pura Dalem Sakenan on Turtle Island so he could be blessed by the temple priest (see photo topleft).
The next night happened to be the Mapinton ritual for a neighbouring village’s barong at our village temple. The entire Mogan Village turned up, with their barong in tow, for Pemapagan night when the gods return from Turtle Island.
The Barong Mogan was having its Mapinton, watched by the Barong of Medwi (soon to be a hotel’s name, you wait).
While I snatched photos of freaking kris-dancers in the outer courtyard, the entire corps de ballet of the Mogan Barong troupe flew into trance and were lead screaming and flailing into the temple’s inner court.
Inside the temple, a dozen pretty girls and boys were placated with offerings of sajeng wine and banged on the ground three times before the Mapinton rites proper could start (see photos below)
See my video "Barong Mogan) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWdzPSuPU9E.
6th February 2012: A pray-in at my village temple on Pemacekan Agung holy-day, the day halfway between Galungan and Kuningan
For years I have railed against andesite — the black lava stone invading Bali like a plague. I have chained myself to red brick temple gates as banjar bulldozers moved in, to no avail.
To the Balinese, fashion is everything. It is considered foolhardy, nay sacrilegious, to go against ‘trends’, be they in temple dress (the new Legian-Lamborgini frills), pre-wedding photos (the more Bollywood the better), house gate decorations (now more “glitzy” than refined) or posing (the Paris Hilton pout reigns supreme). My overseas Balinese Facebook friends, from Berlin to Bondi, de-ride the new cheap taste but are unanimous in their advice: you can’t beat it, don’t even try.
Under the wheel of Balinese ceremonial continuity everything superfluous, like uprisings of tacky taste, gets ironed out.
I have avoided praying at my village temple for the last few years — in private protest against the temple community’s destruction of a heritage monument. The old temple, pulled down needlessly last year, had been built by the late, great architect Pedanda Made Sidemen in the Majapahit style and was considered one of his major works. It was a masterpiece of the red-brick style for which South Bali is famous.
When I first came to the village in 1973, this temple was rarely visited. Considered more important, was the Pura Dalem Kepala Temple, across the road and down a lane, the ancestor temple of the village prince. In those days my village was very much a feudal fiefdom where the hereditary prince was also the local mayor and his sons were the local romeos.
Over the decades the serfs have risen from the rice-fields (or rather been forced off their lands by real estates developments) and have used the village temple, the Pura Desa, as a launching pad for a more egalitarian Hindu, with a less feudal management system.
The influence of the princes has waned as peasant power has gained.
This Pemacekan Agung pray-ins, once attended by only a handful of priests and devotees, is today bigger than Ben-Hur, with every villager over 18 months clad in fashionable white temple dress. The effect of this parade of loveliness — set against the stark, brutalist black andesite background — is startling. I must admit that, at night, when the temple is fully decorated, one doesn’t even see the dark, heavy shrine bases, just the exquisitely carved and gilded pavilions sitting atop. One doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the massiveness of the six new Transformer-style black temple gates, because the woven coconut leaf penjor banners are so dominant and pretty.
Inside, in the newly-elevated dalem ceremonial court, the palace gamelan has never sounded better.
All my old village buddies are dripping perfectly-formed grandchildren, the ultimate Balinese fashion accessory.
After prayers I sit with the priests in the outer courtyard and confess to being the Gringe who wanted to spoil Galungan. I tell them about my one-man campaign against the restoration of the temple and that I have a Facebook page entitled “Ban Andesite in Bali”.
In a far corner I see that a group has formed around Pak Kadek, the temple’s architect-builder.
He doesn’t even know I exist.
I am the author of numerous books on traditional Balinese architecture as well as being an international design Nabob but that means zilch to the temple community.
It is not a meritocracy but a feudal oligarchy: the priest’s taste — which must follow fashion — reigns supreme.
• • •
The next morning I drive past the temple on my way to work. Without the worshippers, the neon highlights and the cover of darkness the temple still looks like a big, dry pile of black stone. The picturesque garden of red-brick shrines and frangipani trees is gone forever, but, paradoxically, the temple community is more beautiful than ever.
29th February 2012: Voices on the Hindu Street
Balinese intellectuals, local and international, have a Facebook discussion group page where matters cultural and sociological importance are aired.
This morning Nyoman Kandia, a Balinese cook in Sharm-El-Shaik, Egypt posted that he had had a dream — that Bali was flattened by a devastating earthquake and that only he was left standing, unscratched.
I commented that this was just a cry for white flesh and that he would soon be visited by a tall blond woman demanding an egg-white omelette.
This morning also Agung S., a retired public servant living in Bandung, West Java, commented in the discussion group on the antiquated Balinese belief in the evil of mixed gender twins. He felt that all these beliefs, including bride suicide, were customs introduced by the old Dutch colonial masters.
I said that he was a total moron and he said that he was going to report me to immigration.
Next came a rosey report on juvenile smoking in Jakarta by Meme Jegeg a Californian retiree living with fishermen in North Bali. I told the learned ‘Meme’ that we needed to narrow our focus to Balinese matters so she launched into a tirade about plastic on the by-pass and what a big prick I was.
It is a happy group.
Sometimes thing get discussed, sensibly.
The Rita Hayworth of High End Tourism
23rd March 1943 – 9th January 2012
Gabriella Teggia, the ultimate Sicilian sizzler, has starred in many Stranger in Paradise columns since 1979, when I first met her in her artistic home in the Menteng district of Jakarta.
A graduate in Biology from Rome University, her life took a big turn when at aged 22 she married and moved to Indonesia in 1965.
With her husband Lamberto Gazzini, Gabriella first made a mark in Jakarta in the late 1960s, manufacturing Balinese hair wigs. By 1975 they had many successful import businesses, the chicest timber home in Kemang, Jakarta, designed by Hadiprana, plus a family of three.
By the 1980s the Gazzini businesses were booming, and Gabriella was established as the hostess with the mostess. Through her cultural pursuits she had extended her ‘power base’ to Central Java and Bali where she acquired a piece of land in Kedewatan, and befriended architect Peter Muller and design-maven Linda Garland.
She cut a vivacious, flirtatious figure in a society of conservatives. She was a textbook Aries with drive and charm in truckloads.
In the late 1980s Gabriella and Lamberto divorced and Gabriella started to build the Amandari, with Peter Muller as architect and Carole Muller and Neville Marsh as interior designers. A big believer in ‘local girl power’, Gabriella enlisted the help of Pinky Soedarman and Ibu Siti of Peliatan as her deputies on the project.
The project was a big success: it remains to this day as the benchmark for tropical boutique hotel excellence.
After the Amandari’s success, Gabriella moved on to establish the Losari coffee plantation, in Central Java, near Semarang — as a high-end eco-tourism resort. She also did a book on coffee in Indonesia.
In these pursuits she had the help of her new life partner Piero Scalzitti a debonair dentist and professional sunbaker. In 1999 Gabbriella was stricken with cancer but battled on at Losari, choosing to fly to Singapore, monthly, for treatments. In 2008 she moved back to Rome to be near her family. Despite her ill-health, Gabriella made frequent visits to Indonesia, the country she loved, to keep her beloved Losari going and to establish a foundation to help the disadvantaged in Java. She also started a Batik fashion business for the Italian market. Last year she arranged a fantastic show of Indonesian culture and fashion in Rome — including Batak soul-singer Murni Surbakti from Ubud — for the anniversary of Indonesian Independence at the Rome Embassy.
Gabriella is survived by three children — Allesandro, Daniela and Claudia — and six grandchildren, the Amandari, and many, many Indonesian fans.