A Tourist’s Guide To Balinese Temples

A Tourist’s Guide To Balinese Temples

Next to the natural wonders of Bali such as beaches and coral reefs, the temples are its next-biggest attraction. They’re picturesque, exotic, historic, and world-famous. Some of them get thousands of visitors per day. But they can be baffling, too. We’ll try to demystify temples in Bali with this handy little guide:

A very brief overview of Balinese Hinduism

Hinduism is easily the most complicated religion in history. It appears to be polytheistic, meaning that there’s many gods, but also all gods are said to be one god in many forms, rather like the Judeo-Christian trinity. Furthermore there’s sub-castes of gods; there’s a trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, and then there’s the lesser Vedic gods who resemble ancient Roman / Greek gods in being associated with some aspect of nature. Hindus also believe in reincarnation, and Balinese Hinduism is further complicated by the mixing in of some animism and ancestor worship on the side. There is also a different attitude towards sexuality, tending to view it as holy worship rather than a shameful sin as with Western religions.

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Some Balinese Words

Some Balinese Words And The Cultural Concepts Behind Them – PART 1

This will not be a general language guide to Bali. Rather, this will be a specific focus on Balinese words which sum up a concept that is uniquely Balinese (or at least Indonesian). This is important to know, because none of these words have a direct translation into any English dialect. And so, each of them provide an interesting insight for those about to visit (or return to) the island of Bali.

Rojong – The concept of mutual communal cooperation.

In the west, we might have mottoes like “everyone for themselves” or “may the best player win”. This spirit of individual competition is somewhat looked down upon in Balinese society, in favor of “rojong”, the sharing of work so that all may gain equal benefit from the results. Kind of in a commune / socialism sense, many Balinese villages thrive on community gardens, group herding, and sharing of resources and even living space. If you’ve heard the expression “it takes a village to raise a child”, that’s the kind of spirit the Balinese have.

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Some Balinese Words

Some Balinese Words And The Cultural Concepts Behind Them – PART 2

Here are yet more Balinese and Indonesian words with complex ideas behind them which are unique to that part of the world. Vacationers in Bali, no matter how casual, would benefit from getting to know some of these concepts, because they express ideas that are both uncommon to the Western world-view and indelibly embedded into Balinese society.

Rasa – The feeling evoked by a work of art.

Arts in Bali and most of Indonesia have a trait that is peculiar to Western thought: they may be overwhelmingly sad, scary, erotic, or humorous, to the point of making the work itself a caricature. Don’t be confused by this over-bold statement; this is actually the “rasa”, a Sanskrit word that’s seen as a quality to strive for. There’s some dozen of them, and they’re meant to invoke different Hindu gods and even have chakra colors associated with them. For instance, a statue of a conquering warrior might invoke the “viram rasa”, associated with the deity Indra and the color yellow.

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