Mystery, Myth & Magic

The Story of the Origin of Time

Culture | Aug 06, 2019

Bali is an extraordinary place in which, like in ancient Greece and India, there are still stories that can be read as stories, or as philosophical teaching. One of these stories is the Kala Tatwa, the story of the Lord of Time, Batara Kala. The story below is only a slightly edited version of the […]

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Balinese Architecture: A World of Order & Harmony

Culture | Jul 17, 2019

Balinese villages give an extraordinary impression of order. Houses are all identical and strikingly parallel in layout; with family temples, kitchens and rooms occupying the same relative position in the walled compound. Large temples, likewise, all have the same structure with their main shrines occupying the same kaja kangin (east-mountainward) corner. This Balinese sense of […]

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Penjor: The Meaning Behind Bali’s Decorative Bamboo Poles

Bali's Biggest Celebrations | Jul 08, 2019

The bamboo poles that line the street during times of ceremony are called penjor , they are more than just simple decoration, as Jean Couteau explains: The Balinese have a knack for displaying their religious spirit in various visual ways. Their rituals are so beautiful, indeed, that one sometimes wonders whether they are not almost […]

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Banyan Trees and the Cult of Ancestors

Culture | Jun 08, 2019

Indonesia is home to one of the most fantastic trees in the world, the banyan tree, locally known as waringin, a kind of ficus. Apart from its size and surface, the most extraordinary aspect of the banyan is its resilience. When its vines touch the ground, they grow into new roots and trunks, spreading out […]

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Early Islam in Bali

Culture | Apr 30, 2019

Ramadan is at the end of May. It may be interesting to the reader to see the way Islam first arrived in Bali. The reality of its arrival is a far cry from the overly dramatic prism through which today’s media tend to present relations between religions. Islam did not arrive in Bali as a […]

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The Royal Politics of Leftover Food in Bali

Culture | Apr 04, 2019

It would be interesting to make a survey, and hence know for sure, what you readers really know of Balinese cuisine. Excuse my arrogance, but I am pretty sure that many of you, when thinking of Balinese cuisine, have something in mind that did not exist forty years ago. Yes, much of what you find […]

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What does Arjuna’s Path to Enlightenment Have to do With World Peace?

Culture | Feb 27, 2019

If we want to understand Balinese culture, we have to look deeply into its complex roots. Just as a tree draws its essence from an intricate and dispersed root system, the essence of today’s Balinese culture draws from ancient beliefs in animism and a pantheon of gods and ancestors, and the much later absorption of […]

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The Javanese Mangku of The Natar Sari Temple

Culture | Feb 27, 2019

The faithful were now all gone, and all that remained was only scattered on the ground, the remains of the offerings: torn coconut leaves and trampled flowers; the air was moist and filled with the scent of burned-out incense mixed with the strong odor of the drying earth. It was all over now and, his […]

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Refusing to Become a Mangku Priest

Culture | Feb 15, 2019

Who are the priests in Bali? Most of you have probably seen pictures of high priests, the pedandas, or even seen them on the roads or in temples. They are easily recognisable because they tie their long hair into a knot on top of their heads or wear a tiara while reading mantras. Pedandas are […]

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The Curse from the ‘Niskala’ Unseen World

Culture | Jan 28, 2019

A story about Sekala and Niskala, the seen and unseen world or forces, that are believed to exist in Bali. Dr. Jean Couteau brings yet another one of his Balinese stories – sometimes myth, sometimes a mystery, but always meaningful: These are the objective facts: Gobler was tired. It was night, and he wanted to get home before […]

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