Monday May 24th
Balinese Home Compound
We couldn’t have asked for more interesting, hospitable or knowledgeable hosts then Made and his family. Indonesians are known for their kindness, humility and acceptance of outsiders, we certainly felt welcomed by this loving family. We felt so privileged to be in a traditional Balinese home containing three generations. We were eager to learn more about local Balinese life from them and participate where possible.
Made’s family lives in a traditional Balinese compound. The pekarangan (compound) of the “kuren“, the Balinese home, is made up of five basic elements: the doorway, with its screen and split arch, the main sleeping area, with its open verandah, a raised barn for storing rice, a kitchen and a bathing area. There may also be a workshop and a family temple.
This home had been in the family for many generations, as a result it consisted of a central open courtyard, multiple pavilions (these seperate pavilions are like the rooms in a western style house), utilitarian structures, a family shrine and a gate. Unlike a western home there is no real living or dining room because in Bali’s mild tropical climate you live outside and use the open verandah areas, looking out into the garden. This is the main gathering place of the family. On arrival and each time we came or left the home we were told of the tradition to start at the kitchen and return to the kitchen.
The People: Origins
The Balinese people are an Austronesian ethnic group native to the Indonesian island of Bali. The Balinese population of 4.2 million live mostly on the island of Bali, making up 89% of the island’s population. There are also significant populations on the island of Lombok and in the easternmost regions of Java.
The Balinese originated from three periods of migration. The first waves of immigrants came from Java and Kalimantan in prehistoric times and were of proto-Malay stock. The second wave of Balinese came slowly over the years from Java during the Hindu period. The third and final wave came from Java, between the 15th and 16th centuries, about the same time as the conversion to Islam in Java, causing aristocrats and peasants to flee to Bali after the collapse of the Javanese Hindu Majapahit Empire in order to escape Mataram’s Islamic conversion. This in turn reshaped the Balinese culture into a syncretic form of classical Javanese culture mixed with many Balinese elements. – wiki
Though Bali is multi-religious, consisting of Christian, Muslim and Buddhist minorities, the predominant religion is Hinduism. Balinese Hinduism, called Agama Hindu Dharma, originated from Java and is a blend of Shivaism and Buddhism. In Balinese Hinduism, the belief is that nature is “power” and each element is subject to influence from spirits. Ancestor worship is also a part of the beliefs. Spirits and ancestors are treated with respect, and they are housed in a shrine and given offerings. Whilst staying here we were honoured to be taught how to make pretty “canang sari” one of the daily traditional offerings of praise and prayer. These can be seen all over Bali at shrines and on the ground at the entrance to homes.
Religion in Bali varies according to three principles: desa (place), kala (time) and patra (circumstances). Hinduism acknowledges five pillars of faith. They are belief in the one Supreme God (Brahaman of Sang Hyang Widdhi Wasa); belief in the soul as the universal principle of life and consciousness (atma); belief in the fruition of one’s deeds (karma phala); belief in the process of birth and death (samsara); and belief in ultimate release (moksa).
The Balinese Village
Our host family lived within a village complex. Various families form cooperative groups of neighbours called “Banjar“. At the village house “Bali Banjar“, they often have a kitchen, meeting pavilion, bell tower and a communal temple. They usually own a Gambelan orchestra and teach dance. Several “Banjar” are made up into a “Desa”, at the center of which are public facilities such as a village market, a meeting hall drum tower, a school and a public health centre.
The Desa own at least three main temple : Puseh (central temple), Desa (village temple) and Dalem (cemetery temple). This symbolises the existence or Trinity to create, preserve and destroy the world.
Banjar and Desa are the basic governmental units, with Banjar central to most village activities and religious ceremonies.
Most Balinese still work in the agricultural sector, this includes wet and dry rice fields, cattle and poultry farming plus fisheries. Farmers organise themselves in small groups which work communally. Made gave us a short tour of his picturesque village including the rice fields. It was a joy walking along the irrigation canals with the boys and the family’s small dog.
We enjoyed leaving the village to explore the nearby streets, look at the many small shops and stop for a yummy roadside meal.
Balinese food is based on a combination of eight fragrant spices (white pepper, black pepper, coriander, cumin, clove, nutmeg, sesame seed, and candlenut), roots (shallots, garlic, galangal, turmeric, ginger), chilli, palm sugar and fish paste. it is hugely varied and extremely delicious. Bali, like much of the region is famous for Tempe (or tempeh). This is boiled soybeans pressed and fermented. It is a common ingredient in Balinese cooking. In tempe manis, the tempeh is cut into small pieces and fried until crispy. It is then tossed in a sweet palm sugar sauce with fried garlic and chilli. Sounds great and tastes even better.
We looked forward to our time here with Made and family and had already had a great introduction to Balinese life and culture with them. Little did we know how much more was in store…