Ancestors Worship in Bali
Ancestors worship is the core of Balinese-Hindus. Ancestors are deified as spirits who have special affinity for the family, and can be counted upon to protect and help the family in time of disaster or need. The ancestors can help ward of evil forces and insure the prosperity, happiness, and peace.
Alternately – like most forces in Hindu Bali – they can cause constant trouble, causing just the opposite of the above benevolence. Which of the two, they do depends upon the respect of the family accords them. If the family directs good feeling toward them, if the family invites them into the religious ceremonies, if the family makes regular offerings to them, and if the family maintains the shrines to the limit of their financial ability, then their powers will be turn to aiding the family. If the family neglects these courtesies, the sickness, death, and all sorts of unimaginably bad things may results.
It seems curious that nobody in the family that worship in the ancestors shrines has any knowledge whatever of their names of any of his or her forebears. Here are several reasons for this, not the least being the way Balinese take names. A Balinese generally has just one personal name. And very often people with whom the person comes into contact daily have no idea what it is, instead calling him or her by nickname or birth order name when he or she have not married yet – Wayan, Ketut, ect.
When a Balinese married have a child, people begin to address and refer to him or her as Pan so-and so “Father-of so-and-so” and Men so-and-so “Mother-of so-and-so” employing whatever their child’s name happens to be. He or she will continue to be so called (and to call themselves) until his or her first grandchild is born, at which time they will begin to be addressed and referred to as Kak so-and-so “Grandfather of so-and-so” and Dadong so-and so “Grandmother-of so-and-so” employing whatever their grandchild’s name happens to be; and a similar transition occurs if they live to see his or her first great-grandchild. Thus, over the “natural” four-generation or (kumpi-to-kumpi) life span, the term by which an individual is known will change three times, as first he, then at least one of his children, and finally at least one of his grandchildren produce offspring. It will come as no surprise if nobody has a clue to what his or her personal name was. And when his or her spirit is installed in the family shrine, perhaps many years after his or her death, his or her real name, will have disappeared into the dim past.
Not only it is well nigh impossible to keep straight all the names of one’s ancestors, it is also considered not important to do so. (In fact, it is even considered impolite to call someone by his or her personal name, even if it is known.) The deified ancestors are lumped together, known variously as nenek moyang, Dewa Hyang, or Bhatara Hyang. Often the Hyang part is spelled Yang. No attempt is made to single out one of the deified ancestors over the others. In death, just as in life, names are not that important.