The Stage is Ready It’s Time to Begin
Sitting in the warung outside the temple watching the parade and carnival. Some people in full temple dress sparkling with gold thread, others in t-shirts and jeans. A man sells sate, other men drink beer and gamble on little coloured wooden shapes. An old man spits out beetle juice, red and thick, two dogs lock in mortal combat.
Walk through the main gate and marvel at the breadth of the human imagination, curvilinear swirling forms carved into stone and brick, bamboo structures that will only last a few weeks, flamboyance and disregard. But this is no place to ponder aesthetics, this place is full of people chattering away, and watching each other. There are shifting waves of smiles and stares.
Some men are walking around with spears getting ready for a warrior dance, women sweep the ground. There is a tourist shooting a video, and elderly man drifts off to sleep. People are watching each other, teasing, flirting. Some women compare the worth of their neighbors gold jewelry, a man is doing his best to conceal a simmering rage. Everyone is a peer, everyone is on stage, there is no audience here. Young woman in transparent blouses, young men trying to look heroic.
The loosely grouped gamelan snaps to attention after the first bright hammered note, a distinct point of sound in the muggy air. The gamelan is aloft along with the incense and checkered cloth. The musicians stare off into unknown places as they play, the drummer’s smile is a white line across his place.
A flurry of silk and black hair animates the main door of the gate. A dancer glides from one spot to another without any hesitation or doubt, energy leaking out through her fingers, changes drift across her face. Kadek has become a feisty dancer. She and the musicians are locked together like drivers in heavy traffic, squeezing passion through a sieve of tradition and restraint.
Join the current of people into the inner courtyard and gaze upon the psychedelic enthusiasm of the offerings and decorated shrines. Chemical pink mixes with olive green, the air full of ancient chants forced through inadequate sound systems. The lightheadedness caused by wearing too many layers of clothing under the tropical sun. Even the unstable neighbor looks respectable with his granddaughter dozing in his lap. The people sweat and their skin is cool to the touch. We are all riding an aural highway of sound, much too loud and just about right at the same time. It would be foolish to resist. Best to let yourself be carried along
By 6pm the clouds turn to pink, and by 8pm the people are starting to get tired. It has been a long day, a long week. A priest yawns wide and slow without trying to conceal it. Most of the people have gone home now, they have done what is required of them. A core group remains to complete the ritual and will receive the full benefit of it. These people are the inner circle of the greater vehicle.
Suddenly the wash of sound, the music and the chants, the aural highway we have been riding all day stops abruptly. There is a startling silence, expansive and vast. After a few moments the priests begin to ring their bells again, each of them with a slightly different rhythm and pitch. Hey create a jumble of sound, just like the sounds of today, but now transformed into something small and delicate. Something transparent in its lightness and easily held, all the sprawling activity from the last few days distilled into a glowing ember. Bhuwana Agung has returned to Bhuwana Alit, the ceremony is now complete and we all return to our homes.