Mystery, Myth & Magic

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

Culture | 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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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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Tri Hita Karana : Explaining the Balance in Bali

10 Years of Celebrating Bali | Jan 20, 2019

The Balinese – and other Indonesian – culture(s) managed to achieve a high level of sophistication without any excessive pressure upon the balance of Mother Nature. I am sure all of you, all readers, love bananas. They are ubiquitous in Bali. On roadsides, in back gardens, but weirdly enough, not in plantations. Why? Very simply […]

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Beware Bali’s Fanged Monster, Jero Gede Mecaling

Culture | Dec 20, 2018

These hot and humid days are the most difficult times in Bali. But make no mistake. It is not because of the rainy season. It is because the guardians of hell are cleaning their cauldron. Yes, they do a little housekeeping at this time of year. Suratma, who judges all souls at the gates of […]

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