The temple has an unexplained rule that nobody can carry a red hibiscus or wear the black and white chequered poleng cloth.
The most compelling part of the temple complex, however, comes from its nightly kecak and fire dance performances. “Kecak” is derived from an old Balinese ritual called the sanghyang – a trance dance driven by its participants’ repetitive chanting. In its ancient form, the sanghyang communicated the wishes of the gods or of the ancestors.
In the 1930s, a German visitor reformatted the sanghyang into the more familiar kecak performance – doing away with the spiritualistic aspect of the dance and building it around the Hindu Ramayana epic.
No musical instruments are used in a kecak performance – instead, you find about thirty bare-chested men sitting in a circle, uttering “chak… chak… chak” rhythmically and repetitively. The total effect is trance-inducing – repetitive voices and outlandish costumes creating a trippy multimedia experience.
The performance plays out as the sun sets, and the culmination involves a giant fire display that is integral to the plot. (Visitors wearing flammable material may want to get a seat higher up in the stands.)
To help those unfamiliar with the Ramayana, synopsis sheets are handed out to audience members before the show.
The plot goes like this:
Rama, a wise prince and the legal heir of the throne of Ayodha, is exiled from the his father Dasarata’s realm. He is accompanied by his beautiful wife Sita and his loyal younger brother Laksamana.
While crossing the enchanted forest of Dandaka, the demon king Rahwana spots Sita and lusts after her. Rahwana’s deputy Marica transforms himself into a golden deer to distract Rama and Laksamana.
Rahwana then transforms into an old man to fool Sita into stepping away from a magic circle of protection set by Laksamana – thus fooled, Sita is spirited away to Rahwana’s realm of Alengka. Rama and Laksamana discover the deception too late; lost in the forest, they encounter the monkey king Hanoman, who swears his allegiance and goes off in search of Sita.
Hanoman finds Sita in Alengka. The monkey king takes Rama’s ring to Sita as a token of his contact with her husband. Sita gives Hanoman her hairpin to give to Rama, along with a message that she is waiting for his rescue.
Hanoman marvels at the beauty of Alengka, but begins to destroy it. Rahwana’s giant servants capture Hanoman, and bind him to be burned. Hanoman uses his magical powers to escape from certain death. Here, the performance ends
Despite the historical and cultural implications of the performance, the Uluwatu kecak performance is strictly for the tourists. The fiery escape of Hanoman is played up for visual effect, and the actors who play Hanoman, Rahwana, and the giants ham it up mightily.
Tanah Lot is one of the most beautiful temples in Bali, as well as being one of the most important. It means “Sea Temple of the Earth”. 13 kilometers west of Tabanan in Beraban village, the temple is uniquely placed upon a rock formation that stands away from the coast, which makes it appear to be floating on the water during high tide. World Monuments Watch lists it as one of the 100 most endangered and historical sites in the world. As one of the most popular places of interest in Bali, Tanah Lot temple without a doubt serves up a sweet sunset.
It is said that Nirantha, King Waturenggong’s priestly teacher and poet, who came to Bali from East Java in 1537, built Tanah Lot. Bendesa Beraben, the area’s holy leader, became very jealous when his followers joined Nirartha and ordered him to leave. Using his magical powers, Nirantha left by simply moving the rock upon which Tanah Lot was built from the land into the sea and changed his scarf into the sacred, poisonous snakes that still guard the temple. Later, Bendesa Beraben converted to Nirantha’s teachings.
The snakes (ular suci) live in sandy holes just above the waterline along the beach. When the tide is out, they slide into the temple. Snakes are holy creatures in Bali. They should not therefore be disturbed.
Many Balinese also come to pray and they must be respected. There are two pavilions and two black thatched-roof meru shrines-one with seven-tiers, dedicated to Sanghyang Widi Wasa, the Supreme God, and the other with three-tiers, dedicated to Nirantha.
Like all Bali temples, Tanah Lot celebrates odalans, once every Balinese year of 210 days; the birthday falls close to the festivals of Galungan and Kuningan, when ancestor spirits are invited to visit their family shrines. Four days after Kuningan, Hindus from all over Bali come laden with offerings, rice cakes, fruit, carved palm leaf, and holy water to pray to the gods and goddesses. Women carry towers of these offerings on their heads, waiting until low tide to walk over the concrete walkway and up rock-cut steps to the temple. Only Hindus may climb the temple stairway and enter the grounds.
At high tide, when the walkway is submerged, the waves can be rough. It is best to arrive at low tide, which is around noon during a full moon.
With such a majestic view at hand, it would be a shame not to share it with someone special.
AdventurousBali is now open for tour and photography service around Bali. Please email me for an early arrangement.
Set in the heart of the Tabanan Regency in Bali, the Jatiluwih rice fields have been named a UNESCO Cultural Landscape, part of Bali’s Subak System. The vast expanses of terraced, green rice paddies are stepped along an entire mountain, from its peak to where its foot meets the sea. The view from the mountain village of Jatiluwih takes in the whole of southern Bali. The fields that make up this area have adopted the traditional Subak irrigation system – a method that has been preserved for centuries and passed down from generation to generation. Perched on a high terraced slope, Jatiluwih deserves its name – Truly Marvellous.
Tamblingan Lake is a beautiful lake located on the north slope of Mount Mortar, Munduk, Buleleng, Bali. This lake is one of the three twin lakes that formed in a large caldera. To the east there is a row of Lake Buyan and Lake Beratan. On the edge of the Tamblingan Lake there is a Gubug Temple. As Lake Tamblingan lies 1,000 meters above sea level, the climate here is cool. The early morning mist that hangs over the waters strangely enhances its mystical appeal. By Lake Tamblingan near Lake Buyan along the south-north highway live a host of monkeys. These multiply so fast, that they are often called the teeming monkeys of the jungle.