Bali, the Island of the Gods
Bali needs no introduction.
As one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, anyone who hasn’t had their head under the sand at least knows of Bali, even if they don’t know about it.
Too many times have I had the following conversation:
“You’re in Bali? Wowwwww, lucky you! …So, where exactly is it?”
Well, the playground that is Bali is almost certainly the most famous of all of Indonesia’s 18,000+ islands and boasts a long list of attractions including (but not limited to): gorgeous coastlines and mountainous settings; white sand beaches and excellent surf; traditional villages and rice terraces; exotic hindu and buddhist temples; and unique cultural arts.
The fact that the majority of Bali’s 4 million residents are Hindu sets it further apart from the rest of Indonesia, which is mostly Islamic. There are over 20,000 puras (temples) and shrines dotting the small landmass dubbed “Island of the Gods”. I just loved seeing all the Balinese temples, big and small, pop up in nooks or loom around corners.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we spent a week in Bali, but didn’t get to do much because of the damned dengue. We made the mistake of deciding to stay in touristy Kuta, just because we thought its proximity to the Denpasar airport was convenient.
But when I did have the energy and moxie, we went to see a few of Bali’s popular beaches and temples, all of which were as beautiful as advertised.
Someday I’ll be back… And won’t waste the majority of my time in Kuta!
Because Balinese Hinduism also draws from Buddhism and ancestral indigenous beliefs, Bali’s Hindu puras (temples) are distinctively unique–even the spatial layouts and the structures of the religious edifices are characteristically Balinese.
Where India’s temples are dizzying, multi-hued works of art, Balinese temples are almost majestic and stoic in its simplistic complexity—the black lava stone temples really stand out in the midst of Balinese chaos, and the multi-tiered thatched straw roofs are unique to Bali. There are still traces of the same intrinsic practice of incorporating as many as elements as possible in a religious piece, but the Balinese believe in the strength of nature and generally do not use paint or colors in their temples.
However, temples and altars are adorned with colorful swaths of cloth, umbrellas, flags and umbuls (pennants) and penjols — bamboo poles decorated with painted young coconut leaves and offerings.
Every morning before breaking fast, the faithful will make daily offerings, where they provide water, sustenance (in the form of cookies, crackers, chips or pastries) and flowers to the gods. During festivals, large woven baskets are stuffed to the brim and left at the altar.