Celebrating Hari Moyang (Ancestors’ Day) with the Mah Meri Indigenous People

I have heard of the Mah Meri indigenous people a few years ago, but never had the opportunity to visit them. So when my travel blogger friend Kathleen Poon of Kat Pergi Mana asked me to join her on an outing to visit the Mah Meri on the day they celebrate Hari Moyang (Ancestors’ Day), I said yes.

The indigenous peoples, known locally as Orang Asli or Orang Asal, are divided into three main groups in Malaysia, according to their language, lifestyle, dwellings, facial features and skin colour. These three main groups, namely the Negrito, Senoi and Proto Malay, are further divided into 18 tribes, each group consisting of six tribes (as shown in the following figure).

Indigenous Peoples of Malaysia

The indigenous peoples of Malaysia are well-known for their handicrafts, and among them, the Mah Meri and Jah Hut are famous for their figure and mask wood carvings.

About the Mah Meri

‘Mah Meri’ means ‘forest people’ or ‘people who live in the forest’. ‘Mah’ refers to ‘people’, while ‘Meri’ refers to ‘forest’. Similar to most of the other tribes, the Mah Meri originally lived in the forest.

According to their elders, the Mah Meri originated from Johor Lama, also known as Kota Linggi. However, researchers are of the opinion that the Mah Meri are not originally from Malaysia. They belong to the Senoi, who are believed to come from Cambodia and Vietnam. Genetic research has so far classified the Mah Meri community as descendants of the Mongoloid people.

In terms of religion, the Mah Meri are animists. The Mah Meri depend on the forest and the sea for their livelihood, and their spiritual life closely revolves around them. This is expressed in their figurines, which are intimately connected to their ancestors and the natural environment. The Mah Meri believe that there are two forms, the good and the bad. Therefore, various ceremonies are conducted as a sign of respect and to appease the spirits or unseen beings, believed to be responsible for structuring as well as meting out punishment on their lives.

Two of the most important ceremonies of the Mah Meri are the Hari Moyang (Ancestors’ Day) and Puja Pantai (Beach Ceremony). We are very fortunate that the Mah Meri has allowed visitors to see and participate in these two ceremonies.

Hari Moyang

Directly translated as Ancestors’ Day, Hari Moyang is one of the most important and biggest festivals celebrated by the Mah Meri community living in Carey Island, Klang. The Mah Meri explained that this festival is celebrated 30 days after Chinese New Year, because they also observe the lunar calendar.

Hari Moyang is celebrated in three locations, which are the house of Moyang Gadeng (who looks after the central part of the village), Moyang Amai (who looks after the areas on the fringes of the village), and Moyang Keteng (who looks after the areas at the northernmost parameters of the village). For the Mah Meri who live near the coast, this ceremony will be conducted on the beach and called Puja Pantai.

Moyang in the context of the Mah Meri refer to their ancestors and also their natural environment. The ancestors who are supposed to be present at Hari Moyang are Moyang Getah, Moyang Melur, Moyang Tok Naning, Moyang Bojos, and Moyang Tok Pekong Cina.

These ancestors are believed to protect the community’s happiness and are also capable of punishment. Thus, the Mah Meri believe in revering and appeasing them. The Mah Meri’s famous statuettes, carved in the form of figurines and masks, are closely connected to their ancestors and environment, and the statuettes’ names are derived from the more famous ancestors.

Here are photos from the Hari Moyang Festival in the form of a slide show:

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I followed the Mah Meri’s customs and received blessings at the Rumah Moyang, and left a Bunga Moyang on the giant cone in front of the building to pay my respects to the ancestors.

Mask Carvings

The Mah Meri’s mask carvings are inspired by their spiritual beliefs and the natural environment, and display their artistic and abstract imagination. The carvings are based mainly on myths and legends.

Here are some of the interesting and enigmatic large masks hanging outside the walls of the Mah Meri Museum in the Mah Meri Cultural Village, Carey Island:

 

The masks are used in ritual dancing when worshiping their ancestors’ spirits. The masks are worn to represent the ancestors, who are believed to have extraordinary powers, and also believed to have been outstanding public figures during their  lifetimes. The following are photos of some of the prominent masks inside the museum.

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Moyang Ketam Impai

 

 

 

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Moyang Jabang

 

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Moyang Tumpang

 

 

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Moyang Tanjung
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Moyang Bojos

Figurines

Here are some of my favourite figurines from the Mah Meri Museum.

The story of Moyang Puting Beliong revolves around a family with seven children. The youngest daughter became the spirit of a cyclone (puting beliong).

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Moyang Puting Beliong

The story of Moyang Buaya was about a grieving man who vowed to become a crocodile when his brother disappeared in the river.

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Moyang Buaya

The origin of Moyang Pelandok was quite sinister and rooted in meting out punishment. A man was cursed into become Moyang Pelandok because he was always lying.

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Moyang Pelandok

The legend of Moyang Sempuar revolved around a story of doom and gloom – a man drowned in the sea because he was taken by Moyang Sempuar.

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Moyang Sempuar

The legend of Moyang Galak is somewhat similar to the story line of some of today’s horror movies. It was about the story of a child disturbed by Moyang Galak.

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Moyang Galak

Meanwhile, on a positive note, Moyang Sauh is the guardian of fishermen who ensures that their anchor will never get stuck.

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Moyang Sauh
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Moyang Udang

I have collated photos of the more interesting and captivating carvings from the Mah Meri Museum and Mah Meri Cultural Village in the form of a slide show:

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Special 3D Origami

I was really touched that the Mah Meri let us view and participate in their festival, and I truly enjoyed the cultural experience. I found their masks, attire and intricate 3D origami particularly interesting.

Their origami is environmentally friendly and 100% biodegrable because they are made from Nipah palm (Nypa fruticans) leaves.

After the Hari Moyang ceremony, we were given the opportunity to learn how to make some of the basic origami.

Here are some of the 3D origami that I liked the most, which reminded me of hanging mobiles:

All in all, I had a lovely time with the Mah Meri community at their Hari Moyang Festival. Before we left, the villagers provided us with a hearty lunch as well, after which our group went back to Kuala Lumpur in the LokaLocal van.

I would love to come back again the following year, and will be looking forward to experiencing next year’s Puja Pantai.

Journey to Shangri-La

I have been publishing articles in bodymindsoul magazine in the last few issues. In Vol.13, an article on my most memorable adventure to date in Shangri-La county, Yunnan, China was published. You can find it from page 38 to 42 in the magazine.

Shangri-La article

Shangri-La county in autumn time is cold and beautiful, especially in the Mount Meili National Park. We hiked 24km uphill in one day to reach our lodging for the night. After 2 days, we hiked 20km back out. It was the hardest physical challenge for me, which made it all the more memorable.

 

Photography trip to Kuala Kurau

In early September 2017, I joined a photography trip to Kuala Kurau, Perak organised by the Selangor Branch Photogroup of the Malaysian Nature Society. I then wrote an article about it, and it was published in the October issue of the Pencinta Alam, which was the national newsletter of the Malaysian Nature Society.

Here is the article published in the newsletter:

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Here is the article text in plain HTML format:

Photographing Fishing Villages, Paddy Fields and Wildlife
By Khor Hui Min

The last time I joined a photography trip organised by the MNS Selangor Branch Photogroup was many years ago. We took photos for Dr. Ruth Kiew’s plant book in 2010. At that time, I did not have a DSLR camera yet, and the coordinator Alex Foong was wondering aloud when I was going to get one.

Then, in early 2017, I bumped into Alex Foong in Ikea, of all places. He asked me if I had sent in photos to be considered for the first-ever Photogroup exhibition at WhiteBox, Publika in June 2017. I said that even though I had put it into the Pencinta Alam while editing it, I had forgotten about the deadline. I asked him when the deadline was, and he said the deadline had already passed, but the committee was still looking for more photos to add to the pool for consideration. Please send by tomorrow, he said. So, I went home and looked inside the folders of my hard disk and managed to find a few to submit. Three were selected for the exhibition and the rest was history.

The natural progression of things led me to join a photography trip to Kuala Kurau (8-10 Sept), organised by KK, George and Alex. The trip had about 24 participants, mostly with assorted DSLRs.  Our trip started with a visit to the Taiping Zoo and Lake Gardens.  Although it rained at the zoo, I was lucky enough to get a few good shots of the beautiful animals, before the rain became too heavy. My favourites for the day were the Baby Hippo, Crowned Crane, Flamingos, African Spoonbill, Milky Stork, Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron, Lions, Axis Deer, Bawean Deer and Sambar Deer.

After we all arrived at the meeting point, we proceeded to Kurau Inn Homestay, which was about an hour’s drive from Lake Gardens. It was a lovely place to stay in the middle of a traditional village and surrounded by paddy fields. My room upstairs was spacious and had nice comfortable beds, fans, air-con, as well as a little pantry with electric kettle, mugs, forks and spoons, mini fridge, small dining table and chairs. The common area upstairs was big and airy, and our trip participants would gather for evening chit-chat after dinner there.

The next day, we drove out at 6.15am to set up our tripods for a sunrise photo shoot at the nearby bridge. In fact, we set up on both mornings there, but since it was the rainy season, there was thick cloud cover that blocked most of the sunrise. It was nice on the bridge, and I particularly enjoyed the blue hour before the sunrise. Besides setting up to snap photos of the sunrise, we also busied ourselves taking photos of the fishing village lining the river on both sides of the bridge, the fishing boats and the fish cages floating in the middle of the river.

On the first evening, we went to the seaside to take photos of the sunset. Instead, we took photos of dark thunderstorm clouds rolling in and flashes of lightning. In the waning light of the setting sun, I thought the landscape was really dramatic, accentuated by the strong winds. I loved it.

Other highlights of the trip included snapping photos of smelly salted fish as they dried in the sun along the road, and salted eggs in the Joo Hong Chan salted egg factory.

On the last day, we visited a small cockle processing plant beside a river in Kuala Gula, but since it was Sunday, it was closed. I entertained myself by snapping photos of the docked boats and makeshift jetties, while most of the group had a discussion with the boss of the cockle processing plant.

Last but not least, it would not be a great Photogroup trip without endless varieties of food, to which we owe KK our thanks. We sampled the hawker food of Kuala Kurau for breakfast and lunch, and enjoyed delicious pre-ordered seafood dinners beside the river.

All in all, it was an enjoyable and productive photo trip, with great company and wonderful food. I shall look forward to future Photogroup trips.

Do Chic In: A Memorable B&B in Cameron Highlands

Once in a while, I feel like I want to go travelling alone. The first time I did it was a trip to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah in April 2016. Mesilau Highlands in Kundasang was awesome, and I loved the view of Mount Kinabalu (but not enough to want to climb it. LOL). Poring Hot Springs and Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park were also wonderful.

So, what’s next? It has been over a year. I decided to take a bus ride to Cameron Highlands, Pahang. I go to Cameron Highlands every year with my parents and brother, but this would be the first time I would be going alone.

Where do I stay? Since I am going to be walking around, it has to be a location accessible on foot, and not too far from town and the bus station. I went to check out places to stay in Tripadvisor and Booking.com.

Since I had a great time with my first homestay/B&B experience in Taiwan in 2015, I thought it would be nice to stay in a B&B again. Finally, I found Do Chic In at Tanah Rata, next to Heritage Hotel. It is ranked the #1 B&B in Tanah Rata by Tripadvisor. In fact, it was awarded Traveller’s Choice for five years in a row (2013 – 2017) by Tripadvisor too. It has a superb rating of 9.0 in Booking.com. Best of all, it had a discounted rate for single travellers.

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My purple room

My room had 2 single beds. It was a corner room, so it had windows on two sides. Both had views of greenery. The theme was purple, one of my favourite colours. The mattresses and pillows were firm and clean.

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Living room

The apartment was like a semi-D apartment. It consisted of two units side by side, with the dividing wall removed. Everything was neat and tidy. The whole apartment was very clean, and a lot of thought had been put into the arrangements and decorations. Nothing was out of place. There was not a speck of dust to be found.

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Living room

The hosts, Jaycee and Jezzica, prepare breakfast every morning between 7am and 10am for the guests. Every day, we will get something different, and it will be a delightful surprise.

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Dining area

On Saturday morning, we were served French toast with fresh slices of mango and dragonfruit.

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French toast surprise for breakfast

On Sunday morning, we enjoyed cheesy omelette on toast, and banana and peanut butter toast, with mango and dragonfruit. The breakfast every morning was made with much care, love and attention to detail. I felt it was this care, love and dedication that made Jaycee and Jezzica’s B&B such a wonderful success year after year.

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Omelette on toast (left) and banana and peanut butter toast (right)

Located on a hill on the fringe of Tanah Rata town, it is far enough to be away from the noise and the traffic congestion of the main road, but near enough to the shops and restaurants.

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Misty view from the living room balcony in the morning

It is an excellent place to stay – quiet, clean and comfortable. The tranquil atmosphere and nice scenery will be a relaxing treat for city folks needing an escape from work stress. 😉

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Morning view from the front of the unit (kitchen balcony), located on the second floor of the walk-up apartment

The hosts are really nice people. They helped me to buy my return bus ticket to KL, and also helped me to book a half-day tour to visit the mossy forest and Sungai Palas tea plantation. The tour was conducted by Eco Cameron, which had trained and certified guides.

They also recommended places to eat, and I particularly liked Singh Chapati Urban Restaurant, at Brij Court.

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Night view

Do Chic In has many international travellers frequenting it, and while I was there, there was a couple from Spain, another from the Czech Republic, and another from Switzerland. It felt like a mini United Nations, or rather European Union. It was nice to have such a varied group, and I would usually see them at breakfast time. 🙂

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Common area

All in all, I had a memorable time, and I would recommend Do Chic In to anybody wanting to stay in a nice B&B in a quiet place with friendly and helpful hosts.

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The awards wall 🙂

And yes, I would gladly come back to stay again here. 😀

Kuala Sepetang, Perak

In December 2016, I went to Kuala Sepetang with my dad, mum and brother. I did not select the fishing village photos till a few weeks ago for uploading. For this series, I chose to have the village and boat photos in black and white.

My dad loves to draw watercolour paintings of fishing villages, which is why we visit various fishing villages throughout Malaysia quite often, and you can see some of his paintings at his blog, Colours of Heritage.

Kuala Sepetang  is a coastal town located in Perak, Malaysia. It was formerly known as Port Weld, named after a former governor, Frederick Weld. It is located approximately 72 km to the north-west of Ipoh city, the capital of Perak state.

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Part of the Larut, Matang and Selama Districts, Kuala Sepetang is a thriving fishing village, and the place where you can board a boat to Pulau Sangga, and visit the fish cage culture sites, which float on the river. There is a thriving Chinese fishing community at the river mouth which specializes in fish farming in cages.

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Historically, Kuala Sepetang was well-known because it was part of the first railway line of Malaya. The railway line was 12.8km long and was mainly used to carry tin from mines from Taiping to Kuala Sepetang, so that they could be transported overseas through the port.

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The old Taiping railway station was built at the location where the King Edward VII Primary School is presently located, while the Kuala Sepetang railway station was constructed in Port Weld. The railway was launched in 1885 and served for 70 years before being terminated and dismantled by Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM). To read more about the history and legends of the railway, click here.

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The Port Weld railway station was located at the centre of town. Now, only the ticketing booth and the Port Weld railway signboard remain to remind us of the golden age of tin mining in the little town.

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Today, Kuala Sepetang is a thriving tourist attraction. In fact, it is one of must-visit places in Perak. There are lots of things to do and see, and they can be summarised as follows:

  • Visit Khay Hor Charcoal Factory
  • Visit the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve, the largest mangrove forest reserve in Malaysia
  • Visit the 131-year-old train station sign
  • Eat prawn noodles
  • Eat curry noodles
  • Eat seafood
  • Take a boat ride
  • Visit Pulau Sangga
  • Visit a fish farm
  • Go eagle watching
  • Go dolphin watching
  • See the fireflies
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Assam laksa sold in the yard of one of the small houses in the fishing village across the bridge
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Hawker deep-frying nian gao sandwiched with slices of yam and sweet potato, and various other snacks in the town
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Traditional tau sah pea biscuits on sale in the town

Although Kuala Sepetang is no longer the important port town where tin was transported from Taiping via the first railway, and then shipped overseas, it thrives today because of its various cottage industries, fish farming and tourism. I hope the place will maintain its old fishing village charm for many decades to come. 🙂

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❤ Kuala Sepetang ❤ – view from the bridge

 

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. ❤ ❤ ❤

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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