17 Apr Bali Blog #8: Crafts, Temples & Dance
Feb/March 2016, Ubud, Bali…
Luckily my American expat friends live in Ubud, the center for traditional crafts and dance in Bali. Beauty and art are integrated into the Balinese Hindu religion and culture. Expressions of beauty are seen everywhere: in smaller handmade items created from and with fabric, beads, wood, stone, tile, leaves and flowers–
to the 6,000 complex and intricately carved temples (puras) and shrines all over the island!
Even the twice daily traditional offerings set at doorsteps and temples are little works of art. One woman who was making dozens of them said they represent expressions of gratitude to God for blessings bestowed to a family, village and the island. Another explained that God appreciates beauty. In the Balinese culture, artistry seems to be a spiritual act created with joy for appreciation of the earth’s abundance.
For example, Nadya’s driver, Alit, said he builds the family penjor every year for his parents. Penjor are tall, curved bamboo poles decorated with coconut leaves and offerings suspended at the end. They are hand made by each family and erected in front of the family compound during an important festival. Penjor beautify entire streets for as far as they eye can see. The curve symbolizes a mountain, itself a symbol for the universe.
It takes Alit a couple of weeks to build a one, he said, squeezing in the time already packed with busy days. Yet he delights in building it for his appreciative parents. He enjoys the artistic expression and connection with his cultural heritage by creating something that shows devotion to God.
“If you return to Bali, Karen, I will be happy to build a penjor for you, too,” he said.
by Karen Lustgarten
photos: © 2016 Karen Lustgarten