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Home » Religion

Compromise in Bali  

by on Saturday, 25 December 20102 Comments | 635 views

There is always a room to compromise or haggle on virtually anything in Bali. An example of a typical Balinese compromise is a compromise in ritual, Balinese ritual is not a dead set that leaves no room for compromise, Colin McPhee gives an account of this “ritual compromise” in his book ‘A House in Bali.’ In a chapter in his book, he experienced a series of bad luck and evil omen in his house, a wise friend told that he should hold a caru ritual in his house. McPhee agreed with this suggestion and went to a high priest to discuss about the ritual and an auspicious day for the execution of the ritual. Here a passage from McPhee’s book, that shows his shrewd dealing with Balinese ritual.

I (McPhee) had not been waiting long before Ida Bagus Gede (the high priest) appeared. I sat down before him taking care to remain on a lower step, and greeted him. He gave me one of his gentle smiles, pronounced a word of welcome, blessed me theatrically and asked the object of my visit.

I replied that I had come to seek his help. My land was full of demons; I wish to make a mecaru at my house, and wanted to know what the offerings would be. He straightened himself and drew his breath importantly.

You need the great ritual he began the highest one and it will take many offerings and a month to prepare for this you will slaughter one young bull, one goose, one goat, one dog with a three colored hide, one duck with similar markings, one young male pig, one chicken with feathers growing the wrong way, five hens of five different colors and twenty five duck; you will also need six hundred duck eggs, six hundred bananas and five thousand Chinese cash; the offerings prepared and advance will include two roast chickens, ten roast ducks, five baskets of rice, flowers and cakes and five skeins of thread in the five colors.

He paused, to think what he had left out.These were only the mains items which I wrote down. When at last he could go no further he paused, looking at me severely. That is what is correct he said.

I was so impressed with the solemnity of the moment that it took all my courage to murmur, father I am not rich is there no other way?

Yes he said you need not slaughter the bull.
But where am I to find such a dog? And who will prepare the offering?
Yours is a large house, he answered sternly. And your land has always been dangerous land. He poured a little glass of arac and drank it he spread a betel leaf with lime rolled it carefully and put it in his mouth.

I deed not feel, however, that compromise was impossible. I suddenly thought of a scene from the story of Calonarang after the holy man has rid the land of the witch, the time comes to make fitting celebration king Erlangga seeks the saint. The king asked further concerning the cost of the ceremonies. ‘My lord, tell me. How great must the sum be that I should give? Tell me the cost of the lowest the middle and the highest ceremonies.’ Bharada, the holy man answered: ‘It matters not, the cost if a man is a good man and a seeker of the Way. And if he is not, it also matters not. The lowest ceremony requires a sum of 1,600 pieces of silver the middle 4,000, and the of high 8,000. There is also the ceremony that is the highest of high requiring 80,000. Give O king, what seems fitting and right.’ The king replied ‘I will take the 8,000 ceremony.’

Guided by the rembenbrence of this situation, I begged Ida Bagus Gede to reconsider the offerings. For there was also the matter of musicians I must engage to play during the ceremony, in also some dramatic performance at night, to bring the day to a festive conclusion. He called to his grandson to bring a pencil. A small boy now sat on the ground below us and began to write.

On no account, it seemed could the dog be omitted, but eggs, coconuts and bananas were reduced considerably. Everything mentioned in fives remained for these were for the goods and demons of the four directions and Him of the centre. It was decided that the women of Ida Bagus Gede’s household should prepare the offerings and I would pay the cost.

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