shrines of bali:

From my recent trip to Bali, a selection of shrines:
The outer gate
The central temple building
Two views of a temple of the dead near Ubud, Bali. This was where we met a priest who invited us to his family's tooth-filing ceremony on the full moon.


Surya, our guide, pays his respects to a sacred tree outside the temple of Sebatu.


The sacred springs at Sebatu, where Balinese come from all over the island to be purified.


The spring arises in a pool in the central part of the temple.


A priest performing a purification ceremony at Sebatu.


One of the many altars at the temple in Sebatu.


Durga the nursing mother at Tampaksiring temple.


The first day of a two-day tooth-filing ceremony at a family compound. The priests are officiating in the ceremonial baleh, which is a roofed building open to the air used for all major celebrations. Tooth-filing is an essential coming-of-age ritual in Bali. Filing the teeth signifies the removal of the childish emotions of envy, anger, hatred, violence, and so on; if a person is unable to afford the elaborate ceremonies involved, the local banjar, or village association, will pay to have it done. If someone dies without having hir teeth filed, it is done on the body before cremation.


A two-person gamelan of family members accompanies a shadow-puppeteer (behind the column), who is performing and chanting scenes from the Ramayana in another baleh across from the priests. Amazingly, after two hours of independent chanting, they came to a stop at the same exact moment.


To the right and behind yet another baleh is the family temple. Note the ornate offering which decorates the column. These are made by a family member who specializes in the art of offering-making, and who also executed the decoration of the ceremonial baleh.


The following day, the actual tooth-filing takes place. The colorful decorations on the rear altar screen are made of colored rice.


Just a few of the numerous offerings brought to the family compound by friends, neighbors, and members of the extended family in honor of the tooth-filing ceremony.

After the girls' teeth have been filed, they spit out the filings into coconuts, which are buried with priestly blessings in the family compound.


At a cremation. Yes, that's me, properly dressed in kabiyah, sarong, and temple sash to show respect. This is the staging area where the wooden animals in which the bodies will be burned are being prepared. The specific animal is determined by the sex and caste of the deceased. This particular cremation was being performed on 23 people, some of whom had been dead for some time and were buried until their family was able to afford the ceremony. Sometimes it takes years, and sometimes only a few months.


One of the towers which accompany the cremated ashes to the ocean. The cremation is a rowdy affair--crews of young men bring the animals and towers in at a run, spinning them around on large platforms of bamboo in order to confuse any demons who might be in the area. The atmosphere is like a circus, a county fair, a ball game, and a funeral, all rolled into one, with hawkers selling everything from balloons for the kids to sarongs to pizza by the slice, and almost everyone having a really good time.


This was a second cremation which we came upon unexpectedly in Padambai while on our way back to the hotel. It took up the entire roadway and caused a massive traffic jam which lasted for hours. When asked whether he couldn't politely ask the priest to leave a six-foot section of road so that traffic could pass, one uniformed policeman shook his head and muttered "no, no." Nobody messes with the priests in Bali.