Nusa Penida and the Kingdom of Dalem Peed
Source from “Traces of Gods and Men — Temples and Rituals as Landmarks of Social Events and Processes in South Bali Village” by Brigitta Hauser-SchÃ¤ublin
The historical scenery of Bali unfold from a third perspective as well: Nusa Penida, especially the region of Dalem Peed, which had (and still has) numerous connections with the southern coast of Bali. These connections are found on various levels, as well as in regard to time. But these levels cannot be clearly separated, since over the years they have become blended in the oral traditions.
Nusa Penida lies off the coast of south Bali. Its steep cliffs and mountainous countryside, with its highest elevation, the Gunung Mundi (529 m), are clearly visible. Even though the island seems within reach, it is difficult to get to because the ocean current is particularly strong, and depending on the season, it turns the crossing into quite a dangerous adventure. The Balinese reluctantly set out on this journey, and during the rainy season, when the waves are particularly high, they forego it completely.
Looked at from Sanur, the geoghraphical location of Nusa Penida has a special importance in connection with the calendar and its ritual. There are two different kinds of calendars in Bali (cf. Goris 1960c), the ‘Hinduistic-Balinese’ and the ‘Javanese-Balinese’. They are decisive for the perfoemance of rituals in connection with the cultivation of the fields, especially irrigation, and the temple festivals. In the Hinduistic-Balinese calendar, which in principle is based on the annual cycle, the equinoxes (in the spring and autumn) play an important role. Indeed, it is at these astronomical moments that rituals cycles are perform which introduce and characterize the following six months. Thereby we find a half-year which is mostly dedicated to the dities of the netherworld of Nusa Penida. It begins with the equinox in autumn, at the start of the rainy season, when storms and floods as well as disease, grubug – epidemic (Weck 1986: 153-158, Lovric 1987: 326, 331-334), threaten the people. The sun rises behind Nusa Penida at this point in time. People get ready to receive the army of deities of the netherworld approaching from Nusa Penida across the sea and invading South Bali with many offering to mollify them. During the season, the highest mountain, Gunung Mundi, can then be seen sharply silhouetted against the sky at sunrise.
At the spring equinox, the beginning of the season dedicated more to the deities of the upper world, the sun rises behind the island of Lombok, which at other times is almost invisible, and the contours of the highest mountain, Gunung Rinjani suddenly come into view. Since the mountains are thought to be seats for the Gods, these facts have special importance.
This is central for the understanding the Balinese have of Nusa Penida and the connection which formerly existed between the island and South Bali. It also explains why the division onto mythological and historical levels, so important to the Western understanding of history, is almost impossible here. More then anywhere else, the histories about Nusa Penida are mythical histories or historical myth. They all narrate the past by blending myth and history. For this reason, the polyvalent relations of South Bali to Nusa Penida (and vice versa) as represented in different kinds of histories, can only be sketched.
Noted in connection with Belanjong, the Belanjong inscription dated AD 914 in honor of King Sri Kesari Warmadewa mentions a region called Gurun. This name also appears in Negara Kertagama (Majapahit of the fourteenth century, cf. Pigeaud 1960: canto 14, stanzas 3 and 4). Also listed are Sukun, Taliwang, Dompo, and Sapi, where Sukun apparently stands for the capital of Gurun. Gurun has been identified as Nusa Penida (Stutterheim 1936). However, unambiguous proof is missing.
There are climatic and geographic indications (as well as oral traditions) that Nusa Penida was once not the dry, barren island it is today. Rainfall was once more frequent and vegetation much more abundant, although it probably never was as prolific as that of South Bali. The still visibly terraced hills bear testimony to earlier intense cultivation. As the histories suggest, irrigation system may have existed in some parts of the island. Thus living conditions were probably quite different. From oral and written traditions about Nusa Penida – above all, the area around today’s temple Dalem Peed – it can deduce, even though the sources are vague, that there could have been a kingdom there. It had connections with the peninsula of Bukit and with South Bali between Bukit and Kerthalangu. An indication of this is the fact that there is a network of temples on the South coast of Bali which are interconnected and orientated to Dalem Peed.
The continuum of the past is difficult to divide into periods. Yet it looks as though the last period of the kingdom on Nusa Penida ended with the subjugation (killing) of the last raja (king) of Dalem Peed, as noted in the Babad (history, tale, genealogical account) Blahbatu (Berg, 1932). This is said to have happened under the rule of the last raja of Gelgel, Dimade – read ‘A Brief History on Klungkung’, in the second half of the seventeeth century. From then on, Nusa Penida was ruled by Bali. The clash between the Dalem Nusa and the raja Gelgel is still reflected in the temples of the area of Gianyar and Klungkung (states East of Denpasar); they are dedicated either to the Dalem Peed or to deities localized there. The histories all refer to the end of the reign of the last Dalem of Nusa Penida – called Dalem Nusa or Dalem Bungkut – who in his lifetime was a king in the flesh. After his death, he became a feared ruler of the other world. In this role, he is often called Ratu Gede Mas Mecaling, the Great Lord with Golden Fangs.
The reports dealing with the earliest time on Nusa Penida mention the name I Renggan, which has already appeared in connection with Belanjong – small area in Sanur. According to the version of Nusa Penida, I Renggan was the descendant of Dukuh (hermit) Jumpungan; however, the kinship relations described therein, once as analysis is attempted, become contradictory.