Dusk is approaching. The sun has dipped its face down behind the mountains on the horizon.
Dusk is approaching. The sun has dipped its face down behind the mountains on the horizon. Birds can be seen hovering in the air over a cluster of nearby trees in search of a resting place for the night. In the road nearby, the last farmers are leading their work-laden buffaloes back home after a hard day’s labor. Twilight slowly merges into the darkness of a moonless night, accompanied by the shrill chirping of cicadas and crickets. Silence then sets, and the stars come out, sprinkled across the vast dark firmament like a million glittering diamonds…. It is time to sleep in the village of Blabatuh.
Yet, Gusti Karang Bucing is not going to sleep. Like every day, he is addressing offerings and prayers to his ancestral gods. Sitting in the lotus position in front of the “Mother” altar of his family temple, he softly mutters magical sentences, and a whiff of a romantic fragrance, the unmistakable scent of incense presented to the gods, can be seen drifting in the air. He is performing his daily ritual of meditation. But what is he asking the gods? Oh, not fame, nor money or even power. He and his wife Nyai Karang Bucing are childless and they dream of a boy who, they hope, will after their death perform the rites due to the ancestral souls and, hence, guarantee them a proper place in the “Old Country,” by the side of their gods.
For years, Gusti Karang Bucing thus resorted to daily meditation, addressing his pleas to the heavens above, and the gods eventually heard him. Nyai Karang Bucing conceived and, nine months later, bore her husband a son. The boy, named Kebo Iwo, grew up to be an extraordinary child. He had a penchant for food and ate incessantly, his appetite knowing no bounds. He grew up accordingly. Yet, the more he grew, the more food he needed. He soon stood head and shoulders above everyone else in the village. Before being an adult, he was already a giant.
As his parents were at a loss trying to feed him, they handed him over to the communal care of the villagers, who took turns to provide him with a continuous supply of food, which he always devoured in full and haste. It was not long before he ate the village out of food. The people could no longer afford to feed him. So Kebo Iwo took to the nomadic life, wandering from place to place, spurred on by the cravings of his stomach. For those generous enough to give him food he helped build dams, dig wells or protected them from threatening animals. It was an easy task for him since he had incredible strength. He first built the balai batu (stone ceremonial hall) at Gunung Kawi, and then the balai agung (ceremonial hall) at Taro village, where he normally slept and which had a river flowing right underneath it. Going then South, he scraped out with his nails, the structures of the Tebing Temple at Peliatan village and, two kilometers away, the Boma figure at the entrance of the Goa Gajah cave. So he went on, shaping and moulding the island of Bali such as we know it today, its valleys and rivers, villages and monuments. But, as he did so, his needs in meat and rice became more and more taxing to the local people, who were increasingly reluctant to feed him. People now fled in front of him whenever they saw his hulking silhouette approaching in the distance.
One day, travelling South, he came upon a gulf where he plunged headlong into the water and began to splash about wantonly, causing such a tidal wave as the land around soon gave way to soil erosion. He was now nearing Jimbaran, on the narrow isthmus leading to the Bukit. When they saw him arrive, the locals broke out in a big panic. There was a holy man, though, in the village of Jimbaran, and this man did not lose his wits; he was a descendant of Ida Bagus Manik Angkeran, one of the mythical founders of Bali, and a worshipper of God the Supreme, Sang Hyang Jagat Karana. He was wise, and so emaciated that he looked like a bag of bones. His beard, which hung down in strands down to his navel, was as white as cotton. Last but not least, his eyes glowed like the light of lighting. In other words, he was holy, wise and impressive.
Kebo Iwo was still busy frolicking around in the water when all of a sudden, this wise old man stood right in front of him and scolded him in a harsh voice.” Oh my son, Kebo Iwo, you whose strength and might know no match in this whole world, stop playing like a child for a moment and hear me. If you continue, the shore will erode and Bali will be split into two parts. So, if the people of Bali want to worship and give offerings at the Uluwatu temple, at the tip of the Bukit, how are they going to get there. Isn’t the Uluwatu temple one of Bali’s main temples, where all have to go to keep intact the balance of the world? Do you really want to damage this balance?
Kebo Iwo did not reply. He was bemused. The old man seemed to have materialized out of nowhere, and he was now disappearing into thin air right there, in front of his very eyes. Feeling ashamed, the young giant left Jimbaran and set out for Benoa, a small port located on the Eastern part of the Bukit. There, he came upon a wilderness embedded deep in the sea. It then came to his mind that he had seen two gigantic rocks the size of two small islets on the Southern tip of the island before. He thought that those two rocks would be well suited to close off the opening to the wilderness. So he went to pick them up where he had seen them. But he needed to carry them. So on his way, he pulled a branch each of the bun paspasan tree and the kelor (merunggai) tree. In those days those two trees were still huge and tough. He used the first to make two ropes and the second as a pole to carry the two rocks balanced on his shoulders. So dragging and heaving, he went back wading in the water heading for the wilderness which he was to close off with the two big rocks.
He was not to do as he wished, though. As he was reaching the village of Bualu, he suddenly tripped and lost his balance. His kelor pole began to creak and eventually broke, sending the two huge rocks crashing to the ground and snapping the rope that held them tied to the pole. Kebo Iwo was upset. In his frustration, he hurled the broken branch away from him with such force that it eventually came to fall on Canggu Beach, hitting a pile of rocks with such violence that it cracked a hole in it, which is why the place is now known as Pantai Batu Bolong (Cracked Rocks Beach). He also cursed the two offending trees, whose wood has since that day been soft, fragile and of small size.
As for the two rocks that had fallen from his pole, Kebo Iwo let them as they were on the spot where they fell. They made the two small islands now known as Nusa Dua – which have been artificially made into a small cove for tourism purposes.
As for Kebo Iwo himself, he was to be a hero in the fight against the invading Majapahit Empire, until tricked by Javanese women and killed in a well he had himself dug. But that is another story.!
Historian and art critic Jean Couteau brings us stories depicting the life on Bali, sometimes real, sometimes myth, always meaningful.
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