Praying for peace on paradise island

By Dwikora Putra, Bali

Sonorous sounds of chanting, bells and prayers of the priests ring out to glorify God. All day thousands of Hindus wearing traditional white head- dresses, shirt and yellow sarongs head for the Temple of Grand Besakih on Bali’s highest mountain to witness once-in-a-century ceremonies for universal welfare.

The complex of 86 temples, the largest and grandest in Indonesia, is decorated in lavish colors and ornaments. These festivities, stretching from March 14 to March 26, 1996, cost a substantial US$213,700. They coincide with the final stage of the Karya Agung Eka Dasa Rudra, a series of unique religious observances.

The peak day is March 20. Sacred arts and dance accompany the morning events in which different animals are, still and sadly, sacrificed as colorful offerings are made. At the same time, on this exotic island of temples, 1,300 traditional villages perform their own rituals.

In the early afternoon the priests conduct the main ceremony. Its purpose is to purify and maintain the harmony between the universe and human beings through the worship of the Almighty Paramasiva.

Besakih Temple, 900 km. east of Jakarta, is considered by Balanese to be the center of the universe. An example of exquisite and beautiful architecture, it reflects the high respect of the warm-hearted Balinese people for their Hindu religion.

Two million visitors a year bask in Bali’s spiritual atmosphere. Businessman Charlie Bak-er, who imports Balinese crafts to Hawaii, said, “Through Bali’s unique form of Hinduism they make an art out of life which satisfies the people’s needs.” It is testimony to the Balinese ability to hold fast to traditional culture, practices and dress while mixing with visitors from all corners of the world. Bali is, as Pandit Nehru put it, “The morning of the world.”

The day after, everyone starts their new year, Nyepi. The island comes to a total halt. All 2.8 million people—93% Hindus—go without lights for 24 hours. They don’t go anywhere or engage in any outer activities. Only hotels and hospitals function. Bali surrenders herself to a sacred quietude, peacefully expecting the next year.