Bali is just one of thousands of islands in the Malay Archipelago. It is a tropical island in Indonesia, so picturesque and immaculate, it could almost be a painted backdrop. Its rice paddies tripping down a hillside like giant steps, volcanoes soaring up through the clouds, dense tropical jungle, long sandy beaches, warm blue water and a host of friendly people. The “South Pacific” indeed . . .
While Indonesia is basically an Islamic state, Bali retains its original Hindu beliefs. Six centuries ago, Indonesia was entirely a Hindu nation, but when the Islamic religion swept down through the islands, the Majapahits, the final great kingdom on the island of Java, retreated to Bali with the entire entourage of scholars, artists and intelligentsia.
Bali has an unusually large number of temples consisting more of the latter than houses. The Balinese have a strong belief in the presence and influence of spirits in their daily lives. The spirits must be pleased or placated. Everyday rituals consist of offering to the gods and the good spirits, which may consist of fruits by the hundred, decorated sweets and a long line of roasted pig called “Bahi Guling.” A procession winds its way through the rice paddies. Dancers perform one of the oldest dance-dramas on the island depicting chivalrous heroes and historical episodes from Bali’s mythical past.
Bali to me was magic and a source of eternal wonders.
By Manny Baldemor