Mapping Bali: Statues and Carvings
Statues and Carvings
Text & Illustration by Bruce Granquist
The temple walls often contain long carved reliefs that tell the stories of ancient myths or local folklore. There are selections from the mighty epics, the Mahabhrata and Ramayana, tales of bravery and intrigue. Sometimes the carvings contain small jokes, supplies by the artisans who may have been trying to entertain themselves during the long hours of work. There are even scenes that are explicitly erotic, but these are very rare.
Throughout the interior of the temple are located statues, these are the cast of characters that give life to the literary and spiritual traditions. The Balinese pantheon is crowded and colourful, it can be imagined as a hierarchy from sacred to profane. This collection of figures have been personified into the many statues that can be found in and around the temple complex. The most venerable statues are placed in protective shrines in auspicious positions, some of these are hundreds of years old. Other statues stand at the entrance of the temple to either welcome or frighten the visitors. Still, others become part of the architecture, as pillars or corner stones. Some statues are small and intimate, while others are monumental constructions. But all of them put a recognisable face on an unseen and abstract world.
As the statues become less powerful and have fewer spiritual roles to play, their iconography starts to relax a bit, and they become more humorous. They start to become more recognisable and we start to see ourselves in them.