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Balinese Temple and Identity  

by on Wednesday, 2 January 2008No Comment | 1,862 views

Paying homage and praying to a temple is not just an act of devotion to God for Balinese, it is more than just a religious activity. In socio-political context praying in a temple for a Balinese is also an act to justify his positions in the society, his position in a clan, his position in a village, etc in short praying to the temple is an act of justifying his identity.

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Taman Ayun Temple

Justifying identity through worshipping in a temple is possible since most temple membership in Bali is exclusive, that is, only those who are member may worship there. One cannot as in Islam and Christianity, stop in at any temple and pray; for this privilege, in Bali someone must in some sense regular member of the congregation of the temple. From more 20,000 temples in Bali not more than five percents are public temple, where everybody can pray and pay homage and the rest of them are members only. (There are five types of temple in Bali: public temple, territorial temple, functional temple and clan temple).

The kinds of identity that can be justified through worshipping in a temple are member of a territory, an association of certain profession in certain area, and member of a clan.

Worshipping in a territorial temple is the way to proof a Balinese membership in that territory. Territorial Temple is a place to worship God and local deities for the local community or village. Territorial temple is an exclusive temple, only the inhabitant of the territory or the village may worship there. The best example of this group is Kahyangan Tiga, or a set village temple (usually consist of three temple; Pura Puseh (temple of origin), Pura Desa or Pura Bale Agung, and Pura Dalem (temple of death). Every village in Bali has its respective Kahyangan Tiga. The Kahyangan Tiga is considered as a binder of all village residents and gives them a sense of identity since only the residents of the village may pay homage and worship on the Kahyangan Tiga of that village.

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Ulun Danu Bratan Temple

To justify a membership of a certain association in a certain area a Balinese usually pay homage in a functional temple. Functional temple can also be called Temple of Profession. The temple is used to worship God and His manifestation as the protectors of a respective profession and the scope of the congregation is limited in a certain area. For example a Melanting temple in Kumbasari market is worshipped by the traders which run their business in that market. Ulun Suwi, Ulun Carik, Ulun Danu, or Masceti temple is worshipped by the farmers who own pieces of land around the respective temple.

And for the most important membership for a Balinese, clan membership, he must worship in a kawitan temple to justify his membership in a clan. Kawitan temple is a place to worship the deified ancestors of a certain clan. Only the descendants of the deified ancestors that reside in that temple may worship and pray there. Each clan has its own Kawitan temples that spread all over the island. Membership in kawitan temple is hereditary, if a Balinese does not know his clan he will not be allowed to worship in a clan temple only when he is able to identified his clan (usually through a dream or a spirit medium) he is allowed to pray in his rightful clan temple.

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