Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pera Penataran Agung

Day Two, we had a full group trip. We again jumped in our caravan of minivans. Natutu, a lifelong Indonesian friend of David and Jed’s became our car mate. Natutu has actually lived most of his adult life overseas and San Francisco is his current home, but he was much more knowledgeable about Bali than any of us and became our go-to-man for all questions on local geography, customs and trivia. We really enjoyed hanging out and getting to know Natutu! Though he doesn’t have children, he was a great sport traveling with our rambunctious family!

I am not going to give a lot of background info on our sightseeing because quite frankly I am a bit sheepish about my Bali knowledge. I was not as researched this trip as I usually am. None of us were. This trip snuck up on all of us at the end of a hectic semester. We were all in the mood to go with the flow and absorb the sight and sounds and to enjoy time with each other and our friends. We were learning about Bali on the fly. We luckily had an advantage of sightseeing with friends who shared their love of their home. But now I have definite thoughts on where and what I want to see and do if I am ever lucky enough to ever return to Indonesia with more time to explore. I will share these ideas in my last Bali post.

On this outing, we first headed east winding our way 3000 feet up the side of Gunung Agung to Pura Penataran Agung , described as Bali’s biggest and most important temple. It is actually part of a complex of over twenty temples.

Our friend David was actually at this temple in 1963 for the Eka Dasa Rudra ceremony, which is performed every 100 years to purify the world. David told a wild story of racing down the mountain with thousands of others and ultimately jumping in a stranger's vehicle to escape as an angry Gunung Agung erupted. The temple was untouched by the eruptions, however thousands of people in the surrounding areas were killed.

The day of our visit was Saraswati, a day devoted to the Goddess of knowledge, art and literature. Special offerings are made on this day for wisdom and knowledge. At first glance photographs may seem to show the temple covered with litter. Actually, the contents of thousands of small, square offering baskets were scattered everywhere as people stepped through them and stray dogs scavenged for treats. The offerings are beautiful. Most are little baskets holding flowers and fruit with an incense stick emitting tiny wisps of spicy smoke. Some are much more extravagant towers of treats and flowers. They are everywhere in the temple, but also in driveways, in shop doorways or on a rock at the edge of the beach all over Bali.

While much of the temple is open to tourists, some areas are open only to worshipers. The whole visit was a feast for the eyes with vibrant colors and views all the way to the ocean. David took the four of us into a small temple open to non-Hindus to take part in a prayer and receive a blessing. For our bookworm family Saraswati seemed the perfect day to be there.

On the way home we drove by Gunung Batur (Mount Batur), an active volcano. From the balcony at lunch, we could survey the lava fields wrapping around the base of the mountain. Unfortunately, the two calderas are obscured by clouds in our photos.

Natutu explained that Balinese cultural and society has historically linked to each family's ancestral village and that religion is deeply interwoven. However, at the same time the people of Bali seemed open and tolerant of other religions and people. At least based on the initial impressions of a tourist who was able to wander, photo and observe Saraswati celebrations within a revered temple.

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