In the Shadow of the Holy Mountain

Uncategorized | Written By, NOW! BALI |

Bali is well-known as a hub for Hindu religion, culture and teachings. Yet here in this remote Brahmin hamlet, in the shadow of Mount Agung, the island’s holiest mountain, Budhakeling is home to devout Buddhists. Surrounded by verdant paddy fields, the people live in peaceful harmony. Their high priests are sought after across the island, and are afforded the privilege of sitting with the Siwa (Shivaite) priests to officiate at important ceremonies.

TEXT AND Photo by ayu sekar

Bali is well-known as a hub for Hindu religion, culture and teachings. Yet here in this remote Brahmin hamlet, in the shadow of Mount Agung, the island’s holiest mountain, Budhakeling is home to devout Buddhists. Surrounded by verdant paddy fields, the people live in peaceful harmony. Their high priests are sought after across the island, and are afforded the privilege of sitting with the Siwa (Shivaite) priests to officiate at important ceremonies.

Their rituals are complex, their paraphernalia impressive, their noble work highly esteemed. Buddhism and Shiva-Hinduism co-exist in harmony – two sides of the same coin. In Budhakeling, even the offerings are different from Balinese culture. It is a village of peace, where it seems never a harsh word is spoken.

Balinese Hinduism is quite unique, incorporating elements of animism, ancestor worship, Buddhism and Hinduism, with roots that date back over 4000 years. Indian trading ships brought the first Hindu and Buddhist priests to Java (and then to Bali) around 500 AD. Kingdoms were established, as were centres of learning; and as Islam gained prevalence in Java, the Hindu nobles, courtiers and artists retreated to Bali, gradually merging with the animist, ancestor worshippers, known as the Bali Aga, the original people of Bali. 

By a long and untold route, Brahmans gravitated to this holy spot and today the Budhakeling is populated with rice farmers, silver and goldsmiths and the Buddhist priests. It’s the only Brahma Buddha village in Bali. 

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