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More on Balinese Religious Ceremony  

by on Wednesday, 25 July 2007No Comment | 2,371 views

Religious ceremony of Bali which is portrayed as a pompous celebration, full of festivity, beautiful decorations and lavish offerings by the travel guide book just a small piece of truth of the nature of Balinese religious ceremony. A Balinese religious does not have to be pompous, and full of festivity but it have to be suited to the financial condition of the family which hold the ceremony.

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There are three levels of the elaborateness of a ceremony, they are low (nista), middle (madya), and high (utama) levels, each level is subdivided into three levels, low level consists of “low of the low” (nista ning nista), “middle of the low” (madya ning nista), and “high of the low” (utama ning nista). “Low of the middle” (nista ning madya), “middle of the middle” (madya ning madya) and “high of the middle” (utama ning madya) are the subdivisions for the middle level. And for the high level, it subdivisions are “low of the high” (nista ning utama), “middle of the high” (madya ning utama) and “high of the high” (utama ning utama). These levels correspond to the type and quantity of offerings used, not with the quality of the ceremony and virtually any type of ritual can be conducted at these different levels.

Though the religious text signifies that the level of ceremony which will be held by the Balinese have to be suited with their financial situation and all levels are same in quality but many Balinese have falsely translated the term “nista”, “madya”, “utama” literally, such that their meaning has been associated with quality. Thus, nista has been given a meaning of “less” or “bad” with negative connotations. Madya has been understood as “middling,” not bad and not good either. Utama has been translated as “very good” or “very high.” This makes Balinese feel inferior if they have a nista ritual, and they feel that holding an utama ritual is prestigious.

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This misunderstanding leads religious ceremony into a display of someone wealth; and religious ceremony is used as a means to win a social prestige in the society. It is not uncommon for a not-well-to-do Balinese to hold a high level ceremony and end up debt ridden at the end of the ceremony. This misunderstanding is fatal since it will turn the ceremony into a financial burden and will dis-encourage Balinese to practice their religion.

A thorough understanding on the fact that the success or failure of a ritual cannot be determined by how spectacular it is – for example, by the number and size of offerings, a cremation tower stretching to the sky, the number of people involved, or the number and quality of guests who attend have to be promoted vigorously in order to prevent this misunderstanding inherited down the generations

It has to be noted also that. A simple ritual which is done with sincerity is equal to a great/high level ritual. Conversely, an expensive ritual done without pure thoughts is a failure; a high level ritual which is done for personal gain hardly can be called a ritual.

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