Soil

Soil is everywhere, beneath your shoes, under your car, hidden under buildings and houses. It is something so ubiquitous that we take it for granted, but without soil, we would have no food and no environment.

An indispensable part of the natural environment, soil is important to plants, animals, rocks, landforms, rivers, etc. and it determines the distribution of plant species and provides a habitat for a wide range of organisms.

We need fertile soil to grow our food, and the food of our livestock. Without fertile soil, we would all be starving.

Today, we show gratitude for the soil under our feet, a reminder that we must care for our planet to ensure sustainability in the long term.

Here is a contemporary series of three haikus on the subject of soil:

Of soil and toil 

I

See the fertile lands
Fed by sunlight and water
Shoots growing gently

II

Touch the leaves of plants
Feel the soil in your fingers
From which your food springs

III

Now in this moment
Contemplate the miracle
That is our planet

 

Khor Hui Min
13 July 2017

Read more about soil here.

 

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A Time to Celebrate Volunteerism

I wrote an article for the July 2017 issue of the Pencinta Alam, the national newsletter of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) on the recent Volunteer Appreciation Day, organised by the Selangor Branch of MNS. The article is published on pages 2 and 3 of the newsletter. Hope you like it. 🙂

PA July 2017 p.2PA July 2017 p.3

Here is the text for the article in full:

A Time to Celebrate Volunteerism

Article by Khor Hui Min

From 20th to 21th May 2017, I attended the Malaysian Nature Society Selangor Branch’s Volunteer Appreciation Day at Ulu Tupai, Taiping. We stayed at the Ulu Tupai Waterfall Homestay for a night. It was a quaint little cluster of traditional wooden village houses on stilts located right next to a large and pristine waterfall. As a non-profit organisation, and a membership-driven organisation, this is one of the ways MNS (Selangor Branch) shows its appreciation to volunteers annually. For this, I would like to express my appreciation for their effort and thoughtfulness, especially the organising committee.

We spent the afternoon chilling out at the waterfall and getting to know the representatives from the different special interest groups. In the evening, after dinner, we went to the Night Safari at the Taiping Zoo and seemed to have walked for a few hours, following the guide on foot. The last time I visited Taiping Zoo was many years ago, but I always remembered the animals to be beautiful and well fed. Their coats were glossy and they came when our guide called out to them. They were healthy and well taken care of.

After we came back from the zoo, a group of enthusiastic nocturnal members went herping with Steven Wong, the coordinator of the Selangor Branch Herp Group till after midnight.

The next morning, a hike to a waterfall was arranged, and a sizeable group went. Since our chalet was already situated next to a huge waterfall and cascades, I decided to remain there to dunk myself in the waterfall and snap photos of insects.

I have forgotten the year I first stepped into an MNS meeting, but it was a Selangor Branch AGM at Rimbu Ilmu in University Malaya, and Khairul Anuar was elected Chairman of Selangor Branch that year. I attended at the invitation of Saras Kumar, the then Marine SIG coordinator. Since then, I have been an MNS member and volunteer. The first time I picked up a brush to try my hand at facepainting was at Tioman Island Fest 2006. It has been over 10 years. Through the years, my volunteer roles have changed. Faces have changed in the ranks of the volunteers and among the staff of MNS headquarters. However, the spirit of volunteerism and concern for the environment remains ever strong.

MNS events are programmes and outings I look forward to, because it is not only an opportunity to go into the outdoors, but also a chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones, while spreading awareness about the importance of the environment among the visitors to the event. I am proud to say that many of my friends are volunteers of MNS, and sometimes I feel that this group of long-term volunteers are like a family of like-minded individuals brought together and bound by the love of nature.

I hope MNS will grow and flourish with the changing times, and still be the oldest and biggest Malaysian-grown environmental NGO many years from now.


 

To see the whole newsletter, click here.

To find out more about the Malaysian Nature Society, click here.

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Ulu Tupai Waterfalls

I went to the Malaysian Nature Society Selangor Branch’s Volunteer Appreciation Day at Ulu Tupai, Taiping last weekend, 20-21 May 2017. We stayed at the Ulu Tupai Waterfall Homestay for a night. It was a quaint little cluster of traditional wooden village houses on stilts located right next to a large and pristine waterfall.

I spent the time dunking myself in the waterfall, and chasing after dragonflies and butterflies with my camera. I took only macro shots on this trip.

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Close-up shot of a torch ginger bloom in the early morning

I decided to let my phone die and went off the grid. No phone. No Internet. It was the best way to chill out, de-stress and relax, while catching up with old friends and making new ones.

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Wildflower seeds, ready to flutter away on the breeze

It was awesome to just dunk myself in the freezing cold water at the waterfall for 2 days. A bit of yoga practice was a welcome treat. I also did grounding meditation to align my energies with the earth’s energies. I like it because I am close to nature, and it helps to give a calming, refreshed and peaceful effect.

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Seeds of plants next to the waterfall

We went to the Night Safari at the Taiping Zoo for the first time and seemed to have walked for a few hours, following the guide on foot. The last time I visited Taiping Zoo was many years ago, but I always remembered the animals to be beautiful and well fed. Their coats were glossy and they came when our guide called out to them. They were healthy and well taken care of.

While others went for a late night herping hike after returning from the zoo, I decided to catch up on my sleep, right next to the window. I drifted off lulled by the therapeutic sound of the waterfall. Luckily, I did not go herping, because people came back with five or six leech bites. :-O

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My favourite shot of a large metallic green dragonfly. It took me quite some time to actually snap some photos of it in focus and in the frame!

Ulu Tupai Waterfall Homestay is accessible only via 4WD, because of the condition of the roads. Perhaps because of the difficult accessibility, the waterfalls remains pristine and unpolluted.

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Red beauty finally posed for me, after I sat down on the rocks for some time

The flow of water is not too strong, making it ideal for visitors to dip in the shallow pools. Beautiful rocks frame the waterfall, making it an attractive place for photography. All in all, a visit to the waterfalls is a pleasant experience.

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Dark blue dragonfly on the rocks

I spent hours taking photos of dragonflies, butterflies and water striders (pond skaters). When I arrived at the rocks, the dragonflies and butterflies all sped off. I had to sit down and wait for them to get used to me. I wanted to become another piece of the landscape. Then, after a while, the dragonflies started to come closer, and finally landed in front of me.

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A brown and a red butterfly landed in front of me for a few seconds, and I only managed to take four shots before they flew off.

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Taking a photo of this water strider was not easy, especially when I did not have a tripod.

The water striders a.k.a. pond skaters were not easy either. When I inched closer, they would move faster. Back and forth, like clockwork. Their speed increased with my increase in proximity.

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Tiny little butterfly on my left arm

On the other hand, a tiny little brown butterfly perched on my arm for a long time. It would not leave even when I prodded it gently with a finger. So, I just left it there and snapped photos of it from time to time, holding the camera in my right hand and steadying the lens on my left upper arm.

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Seed pod in the shape of a flower, fallen from a tree beside the waterfalls

I was glad I joined the VAD trip to Ulu Tupai. It was an awesome experience in a beautiful place, and I test out the theory that I did not have to do EVERYTHING and be busy all the time in order to be happy (first brought up by Low last year). It was true. Just relaxing surrounded by nature, taking photos, swimming in the natural waterfall pool, enjoying chit-chat with fellow volunteers in nature made my weekend a fantastic getaway from the city. ❤ ❤ ❤

 

 

 

 

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Best version of you

I’ve started writing for BodyMindSoul Mag a few months ago. In contrast to the largely negative tone of mass media and social media these days, BodyMindSoul aims to spread good vibes, encourage a positive outlook and promote a happy and healthy lifestyle.

My poem ‘Best version of you’ was published in Vol. 12 of the magazine. It is a poem intended to promote positive body image among females, but perhaps a few males here and there can identify with its message too. Beauty and fashion magazines, advertisements and the like show us photoshoped and airbrushed photos of impossible perfection, and that has made impressionable people dissatisfied and even depressed with their less-than-perfect looks and bodies.

The message in the poem is that we are the best version of us, because every person is unique and no two are the same. We should appreciate and love ourselves more and not compare ourselves to the unreal and the unnatural.

Best version of you_BMS Apr 2017.png

❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

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When did we meet?

In mid-January 2017, I attended a week-long self-discovery, life transformation and success in life programme – the first of this kind of programme I have ever attended. One year ago, I would not have entertained the idea of joining such a programme, but in December 2016, I decided to take a leap of faith. I thought – I should try something new, something different. Maybe it will be good for me.

So, I signed up for Awaken the Divine You, conducted by Master Umesh, the founder of The Golden Space (Malaysia). I like the universal and non-religious concept of  the programme and the centre, where people from all walks of life are welcome, regardless of background, ethnicity and beliefs. It was different and interesting, and definitely beneficial. I felt that I have grown and improved on Hui Min version 1.0. Perhaps Hui Min 2.0 should be in the works? 😉 So would I recommend other people to take the same  leap of faith? Well, yes! Why not? Never try, never know.

After the programme, I wrote a poem entitled ‘When did we meet?‘ Hope you enjoy reading it. 🙂

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When did we meet?

When you walked past
Busy going about your lives
When did you stop to think last
Why the man leaning against the wall
Looked familiar, in a city so vast?

Jostling for space, shoulder to shoulder
In buses and trains, living life at a frantic pace
Did you wonder about the woman sitting yonder
Where did you see her last?
Was she from your school, did you ever ponder?

Busy about our lives; having time for nothing
To the point of eclipsing all else
What is that something that is missing?
The elusive feeling that you just can’t describe
That makes you lie awake at night thinking

Perhaps he was a brother’s long lost friend
Out of sight, out of mind?
Perhaps she was really an old school friend
Hidden somewhere in the recesses of memory
So busy in this city; till we’ve forgotten our friends?

Maybe he was a brother in a past life
Many millennia ago
Maybe she was a sister lifetimes past, or a wife
Although of different colours and beliefs
Our destinies are inextricably interwoven in life

Khor Hui Min
1 Feb 2017

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Bali Day 2: Taman Ayun Temple

After visiting Ulun Danu Keberatan Temple in the morning, where we also witnessed a ceremonial procession, we savoured a nasi padang lunch in a small little shop in a nearby market. Despite the light rain, I browsed among the colourful stalls and bought cinnamon powder for my culinary and baking pursuits.

Thereafter, we headed to Taman Ayun Temple, which was a landmark located 17km northwest of Denpasar.

Taman Ayun Temple

The main temple entrance, a large candi bentar

Built circa 1634 by the then ruler of the Mengwi kingdom, the temple is situated in the village of Mengwi, Badung regency. Taman Ayun Temple was restored in 1937.

Considered the ‘mother temple’ of Mengwi, this temple complex is famous for its wonderful traditional architectural features, including expansive green gardens with lotus and fish ponds. The name ‘Taman Ayun’ means ‘beautiful garden’. It is considered to be one of the most attractive temples of Bali.

Besides being well-known for its beautifully landscaped gardens, the hallmark of the Taman Ayun Temple is the series of Pelinggih Meru with towering tiers. The pagoda-like Pelinggih Meru shrine is a distinctive feature of Balinese temples.

Taman Ayun Temple

The towering shrines of Taman Ayun Temple

Balinese temple architecture is significantly different from Indian Hindu temple architecture. Within each Balinese temple, there are some common distinctive features, which are the bale, meru, kulkul and shrines. The bale are pavilions in the courtyards, each with its own specific function. The meru is a multi-tiered structure, and it is usually dedicated to a god or goddess. The number of tiers must always be odd, and the highest number must not exceed 11, which symbolises the highest respect. The kulkul is a hollow log which functions is similar to that of a church bell. It is used to call the community to come to the temple. Lastly, each temple will have a number of shrines. Each shrine will be dedicated to a god or goddess. Women will present the offerings to them.

The Taman Ayun Temple served as a main site of worship among the Mengwi people so they did not have to travel far to the main large temples, the likes of the Besakih ‘mother temple’ in Karangasem, Batukaru Temple in Tabanan, or Batur Temple in Kintamani.


Taman Ayun Temple is a pura tirta, or a water temple. Besides their religious function, the water temples also serve a water management function as a part of the irrigation system. Pura Ulun Danu Beratan, which I had visited in the morning, also belonged to this category.

Taman Ayun Temple

The towering tiers of Taman Ayun Temple

Taman Ayun Temple

Within the utama mandala (jero), which is the holiest and the most sacred zone within the pura

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Taman Ayun Temple

Skilled craftsmen constructing galungan or penjor kuningan by hand.

Taman Ayun Temple

The penjor, which are bamboo poles with offerings suspended at the end, are the most obvious sign of the Galungan festival. These penjor are installed along roads, and at the entrances to temples.

Taman Ayun Temple

A paduraksa or kori agung gate marks the entrance into the main sanctum of the temple

Other articles I wrote on Bali:
Bali Day 1: Uluwatu
Bali Day 1: Tari Kecak and Fire Dance
Bali Day 2: Ulun Danu Keberatan Temple
Bali Day 2: Procession at Ulun Danu Keberatan Temple

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Bali Day 2: Procession at Ulun Danu Keberatan Temple

I was at Ulun Danu Keberatan Temple between noon and 1.30pm on 24 September 2016. First of all, I was happy that I was lucky enough to visit Bali during the tail-end of the Galungan Festival, one of the most important festivals in Bali. You can read more about the Galungan Festival in an earlier blog post of mine about visiting Uluwatu on my first day in Bali.

Just before we left the temple, we saw a long procession of Balinese ladies and men in their traditional attire, walking towards the paduraksa or kori agung, the roofed tower gate that opened into the inner sanctum of the temple complex, the utama mandala (jero). I thought we were really lucky, because we did not know there was going to be a procession at 1.00pm, but there it was, coming towards us!

The lady at the head of the procession was dressed in a white Balinese kebaya embroidered with beautiful multi-coloured flowers. She balanced a tall package of boxes tied up in a plastic bag on her head with ease, and held an umbrella in one hand.

Procession at Ulun Danu Keberatan Temple

The lady at the head of the procession was dressed in a white Balinese kebaya embroidered with beautiful multi-coloured flowers.

In fact, all the ladies had mastered the art of balancing various objects on their head, and could walk gracefully without holding the things with their hands. They were carrying stuff hands-free! 🙂

Procession at Ulun Danu Keberatan Temple

The ladies had mastered the art of balancing various objects on their head

The procession was complete with musicians wearing matching outfits. They were beating drums of various sizes and shapes. There was even the Balinese version of cymbals.

Procession at Ulun Danu Keberatan Temple

Musicians wearing matching outfits and beating drums of various sizes and shapes

Next, a grand Balinese procession would not be complete without an assortment of flags, spears and poles with ornaments.

Procession at Ulun Danu Keberatan Temple

Balinese carrying an assortment of flags, spears and poles with ornaments

Groups of ladies in colour-coordinated matching Balinese kebayas carried offerings already arranged on trays on their heads.

Procession at Ulun Danu Keberatan Temple

Ladies in colour-coordinated matching kebayas carried offerings

Some of the offerings were quite fancy-looking, with tassels and all.

Procession at Ulun Danu Keberatan Temple

Ladies wearing matching bright pink kebaya tops

Some of the ceremonial offerings were quite elaborate, requiring two to four people to carry them on small litters or mini ‘sedan chairs’.

Procession at Ulun Danu Keberatan Temple

Elaborate ceremonial offerings that require two persons to transport

A few groups of musicians were interspersed with the people carrying offerings.

Procession at Ulun Danu Keberatan Temple

More musicians with drums and cymbals

This particular group of musicians seemed to be a complete traditional gamelan group, and they were actually playing their music while walking! Each gong was transported on a pole carried by two people.

Procession at Ulun Danu Keberatan Temple

The musicians even carried the largest gong. Wow, it looked very heavy!

Procession at Ulun Danu Keberatan Temple

All in all, it was wonderful being able to see the beauty of Balinese culture in action, and we had a blast the whole time we were there.

Other articles I wrote on Bali:
Bali Day 1: Uluwatu
Bali Day 1: Tari Kecak and Fire Dance
Bali Day 2: Ulun Danu Keberatan Temple

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Bali Day 2: Ulun Danu Beratan Temple

Ulun Danu Beratan Temple is a postcard-perfect-looking water temple located on the shore of Lake Beratan, near Bedugul, 1,200 m above sea level. As it is located at a high altitude, it has a cool and invigorating climate. Lake Beratan is known as the Holy Mountain Lake due to the fertility of the area.

Ulun Danu Beratan Lake

Ulun Danu Beratan Lake

Ulun Danu Beratan Temple is a major Shivaite and water temple of Bali, built in 1633. This temple is used for offering ceremonies to Dewi Danu, the Balinese goddess of water, lake and river.

The main temple entrance

The main temple entrance, a large candi bentar

The temple was built on the shore of Lake Beratan due to the lake being a main source of water for irrigation in central Bali. An 11-storey pelinggih meru was dedicated to Shiva and his consort Parvathi.

The pagoda-like Pelinggih Meru shrine of Pura Ulun Danu Beratan is a distinctive feature of a Balinese temple.

The pagoda-like 11-storey Pelinggih Meru shrine of Pura Ulun Danu Beratan is a distinctive feature of a Balinese temple.

The Ulun Danu Beratan Temple is also featured on the 50,000-rupiah banknote. A definite icon of Bali, this place. 🙂

A part of the temple complex, at the edge of Lake Beratan

A part of the temple complex, at the edge of Lake Beratan, which is featured in postcards

There are several types of temple or pura in Bali. They each serve certain functions in Balinese rituals according to the Balinese calendar. The temples are arranged according to the physical and spiritual realm of Balinese people, from the mountain tops, which are the realms of gods, to the middle fertile plains, which are the realm of humans, and the beaches and oceans, which are the realm of sea deities and demons.

Beautiful carved ornamented atop one of the temple roofs

Beautiful carved ornamented atop one of the temple roofs

The various types of temples are as follows (source: Wikipedia & Indo.com):

  • Pura kahyangan jagad are built high up upon mountain or volcano slopes. The mountains are considered as the sacred realm, the abode of gods or hyang spirits.
  • Pura tirta are the water temples. Besides their religious function, they also serve a water management function as a part of the irrigation system. Pura Ulun Danu Beratan and Pura Taman Ayun (which I also visited) belong to this category.
  • Pura desa are located within villages or cities. They are dedicated to the worship of Brahma. They are used for the official celebrations of the village community.
  • Pura puseh are dedicated to the worship of Vishnu, and the ancestors of the village.
  • Pura dalem are dedicated to the worship of Shiva, and the place of cremation.
  • Pura mrajapati is dedicated to the worship of prajapati (the lord of people) or the cosmic might. Usually, Shiva is worshipped in his form as prajapati in this temple.
  • Pura segara are located by the sea to appease the sea deities. Pura Tanah Lot and Pura Uluwatu belong in this category. I visited both during this trip. 😀
A beautifully carved door

A beautifully carved door

Balinese temple architecture is significantly different from Indian Hindu temple architecture. Within each Balinese temple, there are some common distinctive features, which are the bale, meru, kulkul and shrines. The bale are pavilions in the courtyards, each with its own specific function. The meru is a multi-tiered structure, and it is usually dedicated to a god or goddess. The number of tiers must always be odd, and the highest number must not exceed 11, which symbolises the highest respect. The kulkul is a hollow log which functions is similar to that of a church bell. It is used to call the community to come to the temple. Lastly, each temple will have a number of shrines. Each shrine will be dedicated to a god or goddess. Women will present the offerings to them.

A decorative item made from dried leaves

A decorative item made from dried leaves hanging at one of the pavilions or bale

A part of the temple complex, at the edge of Lake Beratan

A part of the temple complex, at the edge of Lake Beratan

There are two types of temple gates in Balinese architecture. The first type is the candi bentar or split gate, and the second type is the paduraksa or kori agung, which is a roofed tower gate.

A candi bentar, or split gate, marks the entrance into a Balinese temple.

A candi bentar or split gate which separates two different compounds in the temple grounds

The two types of gates have different roles. Candi bentar is the gate used in the nista mandala, while the kori agung is used as the gate between the madya mandala and utama mandala inner compounds. These types of gates can also be used for non-religious compounds such as puri, nobles’ and kings’ residences.

 

A paduraksa or kori agung marks the entrance into the main sanctum of the temple

A paduraksa or kori agung marks the entrance into the main sanctum of the temple

A close-up shot of the intricate carvings on the door of the kori agung is shown below.

Beautifully carved and decorated doors

Beautifully carved and decorated doors

The Balinese temple or pura is designed as a place of worship in an open-air space within enclosed walls, unlike the typical Indian Hindu temple, which has an indoor worship space. The Balinese temple is divided into three mandala zones or compounds, arranged according to a hierarchy, and connected by a series of beautifully decorated gates (source: Wikipedia):

  1. Nista mandala (jaba pisan) is the outer zone. It is usually an open field or a garden that can be used for religious dance performances, or preparations during religious festivals. It directly connects the temple compound with the outer realm, and the entrance to the temple.
  2. Madya mandala (jaba tengah) is the middle zone of the temple. It is the area where pavilions, such as the bale kulkul (wooden slit drum tower), bale gong (gamelan pavilion), wantilan (meeting pavilion), bale pesandekan, and bale perantenan, the temple’s kitchen, are located. It is where the activity of adherents takes place, and also the location for supporting facilities of the temple.
  3. Utama mandala (jero) is the holiest and the most sacred zone within the pura. This enclosed and typically highest of the compounds usually contains a padmasana, the towering lotus throne of the highest god, Acintya (the Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa, or ‘All-in-one God’, in modern Balinese), the pelinggih meru (a multi-tiered tower-shrine), and several pavilions, such as bale pawedan (vedic chanting pavilion), bale piyasan, bale pepelik (offering pavilion), bale panggungan, bale murda, and gedong penyimpenan (storehouse of the temple’s relics).
The pagoda-like Pelinggih Meru shrine of Pura Ulun Danu Beratan is a distinctive feature of a Balinese temple.

The pagoda-like Pelinggih Meru within the Utama Mandala (jero) of Pura Ulun Danu Beratan

A part of the temple complex, at the edge of Lake Beratan

A part of the temple complex, at the edge of Lake Beratan

Buddha statue

Buddha statue

At the shore of the lake

At the shore of the lake

My father, Khor Seow Hooi, did a sketch at the temple

My father, Khor Seow Hooi, did a sketch at the temple

My father, Khor Seow Hooi, drew a watercolour painting of the Ulun Danu Beratan Temple. You can see it in a post on his blog about the paintings he produced in July to October 2016.

Ulun Danu Beratan Temple - website and contact info

Ulun Danu Beratan Temple – website and contact info

Eye-catching decorative item hung on a motorbike

Eye-catching decorative item hung on a motorbike

Other articles I wrote on Bali:
Bali Day 1: Uluwatu
Bali Day 1: Tari Kecak and Fire Dance

 

 

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Bali Day 1: Tari Kecak and Fire Dance

With the coming of sunset at Uluwatu, a crowd starts to gather at the open theatre near the temple or pura at the peak. It is time to find a good spot to sit, in order to view the highlight of the evening – the famous Tari Kecak and fire dance of Uluwatu.

Tarian Kecak Uluwatu

A prayer before the Tari Kecak starts

The exact origin and development of Tari Kecak is not known, but there is some agreement that it was a song or music produced by a series of sounds, combined to form a melody, used to accompany the sacred dance Sanghyang, and first developed into a performance in the village of Bona, Gianyar. Historically, Sanghyang could only be staged in a temple.

Tarian Kecak Uluwatu

The kecak ‘musicians’ enter the open theatre

In the 1930s, artists in Bona developed a kecak dance based on the Ramayana, focusing on the part of the story where the Goddess Sita was abducted by King Rahwana. This dance was eventually staged for the general public.

Tarian Kecak Uluwatu

The kecak ‘musicians’ form a circle around the centre of the theatre

By the 1970s, other villages had also developed their own tari kecak, and the dance groups congregate at kecak dance festivals.

Tarian Kecak Uluwatu

The kecak ‘musicians’ sit down

In tari kecak, the music is generated from a combination of ‘cak’ sounds from about 50-70 people in a cappella, which is choral music sung without accompaniment from musical instruments.

Tarian Kecak Uluwatu

The kecak ‘musicians’

A person will act as a leader who gives the leading tone early, while another person will be in charge of changing the tone to high or low. Someone else might act as a solo singer, while another will be in charge of delivering the story.

Tarian Kecak Uluwatu

The kecak ‘musicians’ making their music solely with their voices

The dancers in the kecak dance do not have to follow the beat of the accompanying ‘cak’ music strictly. Therefore, the dancers are more relaxed, because the main priority is the telling of the story and the choral sound mix.

Tarian Kecak Uluwatu

Tari kecak just started. The ‘musicians’ are doing their intro before the dancers appear

The story told by the tari kecak

The story from the Ramayana featured in the tari kecak goes like this:

Prince Rama, heir to the throne of the kingdom of Ayodya, and his wife Sita, were banished from the kingdom by King Dasarata. The story started with the arrival of Rama and Sita in the forest of Dandaka. They were accompanied by Rama’s brother, Laksmana.
Unbeknown to them, they were being observed by the demon Rahwana, King of Alengka, who wanted the beautiful Sita for himself.

Tarian Kecak Uluwatu

The heroine of the story, Goddess Sita

Rahwana sent his prime minister Marica to try to isolate Sita to enable Rahwana to kidnap her. With his magical power, Marica turned himself into a golden deer. When Sita saw the golden deer running in the forest, she was so enchanted by it that she asked Rama to capture it for her. Rama chased after the deer, leaving his brother Laksamana behind to protect Sita. Then, Sita thinks she hears a cry for help from Rama. She forced Laksamana to go after Rama by accusing him of cowardice. Reluctantly, he goes off after drawing a magic circle on the ground around Sita. He told her not to step outside the circle for her own safety.

Tarian Kecak Uluwatu

The story unfolds

Sita, left alone in the forest, becomes vulnerable. Rahwana disguised himself has an old priest, who was cold and hungry. He begged Sita for some food. Sita fell for his trick, and stepped outside the circle to give him some food. Rahwana kidnaps her and takes her to his palace. Back in his palace in Alengka, the demon Rahwana tried all kinds of tricks to seduce Sita without any luck.

Tarian Kecak Uluwatu

The demon Rahwana disguised himself as a beggar, and begged Sita for some food

In the palace of Alengka, Hanuman appears to Sita, telling her that he is Rama’s envoy and proved it to her by showing her Rama’s ring. Sita gives Hanuman a hairpin to show she was still alive and sent him back to Rama with a message to rescue her.

Tarian Kecak Uluwatu

the demon Rahwana, King of Alengka

Meanwhile, Rama and Laksamana are searching the forest for Sita when Meganada, Rahwana’s son, appeares and starts a fight with them.

Tarian Kecak Uluwatu

The Goddess Sita

The giant bird Garuda, king of all birds, a good friend of King Dasarata, observed Rama was in trouble from high up in the sky, and came to the rescue.

Tarian Kecak Uluwatu

A prayer before the fire dance starts

Rama and Laksamana continue on their way to rescue Sita. They are joined by the Monkey King and his monkey army.

Tarian Kecak Uluwatu

The sunset in all its glory

The story comes to a climax with the battle between the Monkey King and his monkey army, and Meganada and his demon Army, which ends with the defeat of Meganada.

Tarian Kecak Uluwatu

The Monkey King prepares for war

Tarian Kecak Uluwatu

The Monkey King doing the fire dance

Other articles I wrote on Bali:
Bali Day 1: Uluwatu
Bali Day 2: Ulun Danu Keberatan Temple

Posted in Bali, culture, Festivals, Historical, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bali Day 1: Uluwatu

I went to Bali in September 2016. However, for this second trip, I brought my parents and brother with me. Bali is one of my favourite places, and I was sure they would like it there too.

Since we touched down in the afternoon, Kadek brought us to the Uluwatu temple complex, because then we could stay till sunset to watch the Tari Kecak, and it was all good. Tari Kecak will be featured in my next blog post. 😉

I took over 600 photos over three days, and here are some of the photos I finally selected from our visit to Uluwatu.

Uluwatu

My favourite photo of Uluwatu 🙂

Uluwatu is such a breathtakingly beautiful place that I just could not stop taking photos. There was a pathway all along the cliff, linking the various temples in the complex, and I walked a long stretch of it. Since our visit coincided with Galungan, the temple complex had more visitors than usual, and was beautifully decorated.

Uluwatu

Up the pathway to the peak in the Uluwatu templex complex

There is a signboard outside the temple complex that says visitors should keep their spectables and other shiny objects such as mobile phones hidden, because the monkeys will steal them. This warning should not be taken lightly. I was wearing my specs while walking near a place where people engaging in ceremonies walked down a tiny steep flight of stairs down the cliff to the beach below. There were a few monkeys there, and one particularly big and fat male just walked towards me on the stone wall and grabbed my specs off my face! There was a large group of caucasians there. Although they were not speaking in English among themselves, they understood me, and started to throw food items at the monkey perched on the wall, until he threw my specs into the bushes behind the wall. Thankfully, my specs were not broken, and I thanked all the people who helped me retrieve it.

Uluwatu

Down the pathway, all along the cliff of Uluwatu

Our trip to Bali conincided with Galungan, which celebrates the victory of dharma over adharma. The festival period stretches over a 10-day period, where a series of Hindu religious ceremonies are performed. Galungan is considered to be a very important festival in Hindu Bali. To read more about the series of Hindu ceremonies performed during Galungan, visit the Galungan ceremonies page of Wonderful Bali.

At Uluwatu temple complex

At Uluwatu temple complex

The specific ceremonial days of the festival start with Tumpek Uduh and end with Tumpek Kuningan. Here is the list of specific ceremonies of Galungan:

  1. Tumpek Uduh
  2. Sugian Pengenten
  3. Sugian Jawa
  4. Sugian Bali
  5. Penyekeban
  6. Penyajaan Galungan
  7. Penampahan Galungan
  8. Galungan Day
  9. Umanis Galungan
  10. Ulihan
  11. Pemacakan Agung
  12. Tumpek Kuningan
Galungan at Uluwatu temple complex

Galungan or penjor kuningan at Uluwatu temple complex

The most obvious sign of the Galungan festival are the penjor – bamboo poles with offerings suspended at the end. These penjor are installed along roads, and at the entrances to temples. Penjor are also called galungan.

Galungan at Uluwatu temple complex

Galungan or penjor kuningan at Uluwatu temple complex

Preparations start at Tumpek Uduh, which is 25 days before Galungan Day, at the Saturday of the 7th week of the Balinese Pawukon calendar, Wariga. Thus, the total length of the ceremony period of Galungan is actually 35 days. This is equivalent to 5 weeks, which is one Balinese month.

Elephant statue at Uluwatu temple complex

Elephant statue at Uluwatu temple complex

There are often two Galungan celebrations per solar year. The Galungan dates for 2015-2017 (as listed in Wikipedia) are as follows:

2015 July 15 July 25
2016 February 10 February 20
2016 September 7 September 17
2017 April 5 April 15
2017 November 1 November 11
Uluwatu

A Caucasian couple dressed in traditional Balinese garb on their way to participate in a ceremony in Uluwatu

To see more 2016-2017 events in Bali, visit Bali Spirit.

Other articles I wrote on Bali:
Bali Day 1: Tari Kecak and Fire Dance
Bali Day 2: Ulun Danu Keberatan Temple

 

Posted in Bali, culture, Festivals, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments