The “Moon” of Pejeng
The moon of Pejeng which is kept in a shrine in Penataran Sasih temple can be considered as the most remarkable antiquities in Bali. This bronze drum is a sacred relic for Balinese, an artifact for the archeologist, and a curiosity for the tourists. The older generations of Balinese invented various myths around the drum. Some say that it is one of the subangs (ear-plugs) of the moon; while other say it is a sasih, the ‘moon’ itself.
Based the local legend, long ago the moon fell down to the earth, in Pejeng precisely, and was caught in a tree. It remained there giving a blinding light, preventing some thieves of the neighborhood from performing their nocturnal work. One of them, bolder than the rest, decided to extinguish the source of light; he climbed on the tree, and urinated on the moon. The ‘moon’ exploded, killing the thief, and fell to the ground in the shape of present drum, which explains why it is broken at the base. The people of Pejeng rescued it and placed on a high latticed shrine in the Penataran Sasih temple, the former home of demon-king Maya Danawa.
The drum is reminiscence of the Bronze Age in Bali. It is of the style of the so-called Chinese drums of the Han dynasty often found in Indo-China and even in Java. The ‘moon’ of Pejeng differs somewhat from the usual Han drums; it is elongated, with three great handles, rather like bronzes drum found in Alor, the island near Timor.
The drum is decorated on its surrounding surface with a beautiful star in high relief surrounded by a border of sweeping spirals and on its sides by a border between parallel lines rather like a series of triangles, a popular design called tumbak (spears) by the Balinese. There are also, strangely primitive, or rather conventionalized faces in low relief that have no obvious relation to Chinese art and that are strongly Indonesian, with the characteristic leaf-shaped ornament worn behind the ears, the earlobes of which are exaggeratedly distended by the weight of un-usual ear-rings.
For the Balinese, the Pejeng drum is a sacred object; it is regarded with great reverence, and honored with constant offerings.