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More on Balinese Temple  

by on Thursday, 29 March 2007No Comment | 1,872 views

Every temple in Bali, whatever its function or size, is the center of activities of a specific corporate social group. It is a permanent, well-organized association with commonly owned property such as the temple itself, temple rice field or land (pelaba pura).

In addition to carrying out the regular ritual connected with the temple, the group is responsible for physical maintenance of the temple, for its decoration with renewed stone carvings, and new cloth banners and for the provision of small and daily or weekly offerings.


The size of a temple congregation (pemaksan, from the word “paksa” means obligatory work) may range from a few people, as in the case of a house yard temple, through several hundred up to tens of thousands, as in the case temple of Sad Kahyangan (six main temple of Bali). The priest of each temple is chosen among its members, either by hereditary succession, popular election or divine intercession via the trance of one worshipper. Since the duties of the congregation are generally considerable, there is usually, in addition to the priest, a secular chairman (klian pemaksan) in charge of the coordination of work and of the group treasury.

Temple group have certain structural features which, no matter what kind of social function the congregation may performs, directly influence their form.

First, temple membership 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 one must in some sense regular member of the congregation. Of course, for a Balinese, it is not too difficult to become a member of certain temples such as village temple or Subak (water irrigation) temple, one only have to move to a new village or buy a piece of rice field and automatically take over the obligation to attend 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), or a subak temple. For other temples, one may learn from a dream or a spirit medium that one ought to be worshipping at a certain temple.


Second, the entire congregation as a corporate whole is responsible for the adequacy of its ritual observances. Any lapses are thought to bring retribution upon the group as a whole or on every person in it, not merely upon the person who made the original error or transgression.

The social group which are formed around any temple usually have other function besides worship, such as community welfare, social control, agricultural corporation, indication of rank in society, and so on.

Most materials for this writing are taken from Hildred and Clifford Geertz’s Kinship in Bali.

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