Pemangku: Temple Priest
Thousands of temples that scattered all over the island of Bali can be compared to thousands of living organisms. They need to be taken care of and this arduous task is the responsibility of thousands of pemangkus, or temple priests, who devotes their lives toperseverance of the temples. Each temple in Bali has its own pemangku, a pemangku is the guardian, overseer, priest, in short, the one who responsible for the needs of a temple and its congregation.
A pemangku can be easily recognized among the crowd of worshippers by his white attires and his special headdress which covers the upper part of the head (headdress for lay man does not cover the upper section of the head). He usually sits higher that the rest of the temple congregations. Most pemangkus are men, but there is no gender restriction, and one sometimes sees a woman in this role.
Pemangku position is an ascribed status, it cannot be achieved. One inherited the office of pemangku from his father, or if there is no successor available, a divine intervention is needed. A ceremony to invite the god who resides in the temple which has no pemangku, to enter the body of a medium will be held. The entranced medium will name the “lucky” member of the congregation who is destined to be the next pemangku. It is a common case in Bali that the chosen one refuses the office of pemangku. This refusal usually ends up with incurable sickness and when the chosen one shows their willingness to fill the vacant post, his health will be restored immediately.
The unwillingness of the chosen member of the congregation is understandable, since the duties of pemangku are numerous ranges from taking care of the temple, seeing to it that it is kept clean and in good repair to furnishing holy water to those who seek it for various occasion, and he also in charge of all ceremonies that occur within the temple and serves the congregation during the ceremony. These heavy tasks are seldom accompanied with proper appreciation. Pemangku usually undergoes considerable hardship in order to fulfill his functions.