Banjar: Balinese People’s Republic
Banjar, or Balinese neighborhood organization, an aggregate of member families that plans, organizes, and executes the great majority of activities that makes up Balinese life. Anthropologist uses the term “hamlet” for banjar. The banjar is the most important organization in Balinese society; it penetrates and plays important role in every aspect of Balinese life. No cremation, wedding or other ceremony can be held without the participation of the banjar members.
Each banjar has its own law called awig-awig, and the member of banjar adhere more to the banjar law than the state official law. The banjar is an autonomous republic and government has a minimum authority and influence on it. Although the Banjar does not get a penny from the Government the Banjar as group has a very strong influence in local Government decisions, 3500 independent banjars make up Balinese society.
In most Balinese villages all married males are required to join a banjar, the wives and children of these members are considered to belong to the banjar too, but only the male heads of the families go to the regular meeting of the banjar and have rights to vote in banjar meeting. Sizes of banjars vary considerably. Some urban banjars in Denpasar have 400 to 5000 head of families. Rural banjars have as few as 50. One hundred is about average. Considering an average family of husband, wife and two children, the typical banjar has about 400-500 people in it.
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Each banjar has its own meeting hall called “Bale Banjar“. Almost always large, open structure with raised concrete floor, and roof supported by pillars. Some are large and fancy, decorated with carved stone and with stage for performances. Others are modest but functional. The bale banjars are social center for ping-pong, playing with fighting cocks, TV-watching, or just chatting and resting. In a tower on the bale banjar or in separate structure, is the kulkul, the signal drum used to summon members. Various cadences and rhythm, called tabuh, are beaten to notify the members of a variety of events – a regular monthly meeting, an emergency summon in case of the death of a banjar member, a panic signal for help in case of robbery, fire or the like, and summon to a work party.
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Every 35 days – one Pawukon calendar month – a meeting of the banjar members is held in the bale banjar. Members are obliged to come, and some banjar levy fines for those who do not. Meeting usually begins early in the evening, and dress is always Balinese traditional dress. Discussion is held in polite level of Balinese language rather than Indonesian. Member sit on the floor of the bale banjar facing the head of the banjar (kelian banjar) and other elected officials. There are not many of the latter – a secretary (penyarikan) and several messengers (kasinoman).
The banjar always has a temple, although usually it is small. It nevertheless has an odalan, an anniversary celebration, just as do all other temples in Bali, and banjar members are expected to both help with and enjoy the ceremony.