Archive for December, 2011

24 December 2011

The ride from airport to the hotel was uneventful, but for me feeling worried about Bharath. He had hurt his leg a few days back and it had developed an infection. The leg had swollen up since we left Bangalore and he could hardly walk. It looked like we would not be seeing any sights even if the weather gods permitted. At the hotel, we consulted a Doctor and she did some work on Bharath. Later we went to the beach, the sea was very peaceful and the waves quite gentle. The beach was very clean and the sand nice and white. It was quite nice to lie down on the beach chairs and listen to the sea.

25 December 2011

After yet another consultation with the Doctor, we set out mid-morning to take in some sights. The first stop was a shop that sold handicraft items. Most of items were from Hindu mythology but many had rather demonic faces, even the likes of Hanuman and Varunan. The workmanship was quite intricate and I liked some of the stuff there. After some tough bargaining, I bought three masks.

The scenery in Bali is very much like Kerala with greenery all around, especially as this is the rainy season. There are very many small temples all along the road, which resemble the small “kavu” in Kerala. It seems there are more than a thousand temples in Bali and the predominant religion is Hinduism. Rice is cultivated throughout and one felt right at home while driving around.

The next stop was a temple called Goa Gajah, where we arrived amidst a drizzle. This is a temple which is about 1100 years old and the main god here is Ganesha. It is set into a small cave.

In front of the cave, there is a small pond like the ones we have in temples in South India. On the side of the pond, there are seven statutes that sprout water, called Saptha Ganga. One of the statues has fallen down.

The opening into the cave is carved out in stone and the guide was of the view that the five fingers of the “Dwarapalaka” symbolised the five tenets of Hinduism that one is supposed to believe in – God, Karma, Moksha, Nirvana and Reincarnation. However, I must admit that this was the first I had heard of such tenets in Hinduism. The entrance to the cave opened out into a slightly large rectangular cave, with Ganesha at one end and the tri-murtis (Shiva, Vishnu & Brahma) at the other. There is also a small alcove for one to sit in and meditate. An interesting point was that the tri-murtis were symbolised by three sivalingams and this is the first I am seeing Vishnu and Brahma represented in such form.

A few steps further down, we got to a small stream which had swollen up because of the rain. We crossed the stream and went up to another temple, this one being dedicated to Buddha. It seems that Buddhism and Hinduism co-exist in Goa Gajah with Balinese people considering Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu. I do not recall seeing this in any location in India. Could it be because Adi Sankaran never got here to concretise the divide between the two religions? The guide showed us the spot where a big statue of Buddha had stood once; it has fallen into the stream now.

We were then led back through a paddy field back to the front side of the temple. The guide said that they took three crops a year from these fields. The whole setting was very much like what you find in any farm in Kerala.

As we were leaving, I noticed that some devotees had left some offerings for the gods. The offerings themselves seemed very nature friendly as the containers were made of materials like palm leaves. The temple and surroundings were very clean and I noticed that there was no pollution from plastic anywhere – a far cry from the temples in India. I wonder whether the temples are so clean because they are more of tourist locations than places of worship. But then, Bali itself is quite clean overall; so it must have something to do with the people and their civic consciousness.

The rain had strengthened by then and we dropped our plans for any further visits and drove back to the hotel. Spent another quiet evening by the beach, looking up at stars and clouds. There were also some fireworks going off because of Christmas and those looked very nice as they went up over the sea.

26 December 2011

Bharath’s leg was in much better condition and so we set off soon after breakfast – our destination being the most important temple in Bali, called Pura Basakih. This is called as the “mother temple” and is the most revered. Yet again, rain was on when we arrived at the temple. This was a pity because the sights are quite beautiful and the temples have very ornate carvings but photography was difficult in such weather. However, the overall visual effect was quite nice with misty hills in the background.

This is a very large temple built in the 8th Century and is built on a hillock. It covers an area of more than four acres and is in fact a complex of about 55 small temples (Wikipedia says 22). One came across a very interest concept of a Supreme God called “Sayang Viddhi”; it seems this Supreme Being is above the tri-murtis. Pura Basahih had Sayang Viddhi and tri-murtis as the main deities. the temple is beautifully made with very ornate carvings, statues etc. the courtyard itself was very neat and when we arrived some worshippers were making some offering to the gods and our guide said they called this as “thirtha yathra”.

The structure of the roofs of the temples resembles Chinese Pagodas. It seems such construction is called “Meru” in Indonesian language. These can have multiple, odd numbered tiers and most important temple, that of Sayang Viddhi, has nine tiers, with those of Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma etc. having lesser numbers. In Bali, Shiva is associated with Fire, while Vishnu is associated with Water and Brahma with Air.

The ills of Hinduism like the caste system seems to have to made its way across the seas and in the complex, we could see temples dedicated for the four castes. Some others like blacksmiths also have their own temples. Another interesting point that I noticed was the presence of large umbrellas like the ones used in Kerala to decorate elephants when they are taken out in a procession. I could not see any elephants and for some reason I felt that elephants are not part of the tradition here.

I had read that the sunset over a temple called Tanah Lot is a very spectacular sight and we planned to cover that in the evening. Unfortunately, the drivers in Bali seem to have a very relaxed view on time and so we arrived a bit late. The driver had said it would take us forty five minutes from the hotel whereas it took us almost double that time. While we could still catch the sunset, we missed the temple. The scene itself was quite fantastic and we watched it from the terrace of a restaurant.

There is also a small temple which can accessed through a natural bridge over the sea. I am not sure how long the bridge will last as the sea has hollowed out a good portion of the supporting structure. The main temple, Tanah Lot, can only be accessed during low tide as the crossing gets flooded during high tide. We had arrived at high tide and so we could only see it from a distance and that too in the dark. This would be a great place to walk around and then sit down and have a quiet drink while watching the sun go down. So very peaceful and serene.

27 December 2011

The people in Bali seem very friendly and genuinely service oriented. I was woken up in the morning by an SMS from the driver we had used for the two days, apologizing for not being on duty that day to take us to the airport and wishing us a safe journey back home. This was a followed by a call from the Doctor who had examined Bharath the first day, asking whether he is fine and again wishing us a safe journey. I was very pleasantly surprised as this was not something I had expected at all. Overall, Bali is a great place with lots to see and experience. We could not do any justice at all this time because of the weather. Bharath and I both felt that we need to come back with Sandhya and spend at least a week here. Till then….