Category Archives: Kulture Kid

What does Ngiring mean?

For those of you who have gone beyond Indonesian and are attempting to learn Balinese, you would have certainly heard this word a lot. Ngiring is one of the most interesting Balinese words because it is not only versatile but it explains so much about Balinese culture in the way it is used. For those of you who don’t have the ‘ng’ sound in your native language, it can be an effort in itself just to pronounce it, let alone understand all the different contexts when you can apply it. Ngiring is classified as a refined/polite word so it is part of ... [ Read More ]

The Indonesian Love Affair with Uniforms

  Uniforms: schools, universities, playgroups, kindergartens, gamelan groups, ngaben, pelebon, government employees, nurses, ceremonies. Old fashioned Compared with the West, Indonesia is still a very communal society. Sometime after World War II, perhaps initially in response to the communist paranoia in the cold war and then generally to military uniforms during the Vietnam War, Western society decided that it wanted to be “free”, and part of that freedom (in addition to all the consumption of illicit substances) was to show individualism through the way we dress (even though we all had the same sorts of bell bottoms, paisley shirts and ... [ Read More ]

How do Balinese Construct Arguments?

There are many examples of how the life and thoughts of Balinese people is the complete opposite of other cultures. As western society, and now many other societies, industrialized and put more emphasis on scientific thought and consequent secularism, more and more people started to think in a scientific and analytical way. Fact-based science resulted in mass education and society became more orderly and structured. This affected most of what we do and most of what we think. Critical thinking is a result of all of this. The Internet has in some ways aided the development critical thinking, but in ... [ Read More ]

What does Tirta Yatra mean?

Derived from Sanskrit, tirta yatra literally means “sacred holy water pilgrimage”: a journey (normally of a substantial distance) to seek and or collect holy water. These days in Bali, the original meaning is somewhat lost and tirta yatra means simply a holy or spiritual pilgrimage. Tirta yatra, unlike spiritual journeys by holy men, can be carried out by anyone of any caste and socio-economic status. Balinese have been doing tirta yatra since the adoption of Siwa-Buddhist ideas more than a thousand years ago in Bali. Traditionally, common spiritual pilgrimages would have been to the six most important temples in Bali, the sad khayangan, which includes of course ... [ Read More ]

What is the role of animals in ceremonies and ritual in Bali?

Animals, dead or alive, are an essential part of any ceremony in Bali. Unlike their Hindu counterparts in India, very few Balinese Hindus are vegetarian or vegan, and animal products are on the menu at all ceremonies. Meat includes chicken, duck and goat, as well as pig’s blood if red lawar is served. Preparation of animals for slaughter, the slaughter process and the cooking is all the men’s duty. Once an animal has been selected to be on the menu, it is brought to the ceremony location and slaughtered outdoors, normally by the roadside (so the blood washes into the gutter). Animals ... [ Read More ]

Why does Bali have a history of Animal Cruelty?

  You don’t have to be in Bali for long before you realize that many animals are treated ‘differently’ to our pets in the West. Dogs and birds, and even endangered species are often kept in small cages for the pleasure of their owners; turtles were traditionally hunted and killed brutally as a delicacy; pigs and water buffalo are still killed in a most cruel manner; animals, including baby birds, chickens, roosters, pigs, ducks, buffalos and even monkeys are still sacrificed for the gods as part of trance rituals or to complete major ceremonies. When my parents first visited me ... [ Read More ]

How do Balinese view Animals on a Spiritual Level?

In my last article, I talked about witches appearing in the form of animals. These are what we would call “shape shifters” in the West. These animals can be seen as bad signs and may even be hunted down and killed. ‘Evil’ animals could be snakes, lizards, pigs and boars. These animals would be seen lurking around graveyards and possibly temples next to graveyards (Pura Dalem). On the other hand, animals which regularly visit other temples or places of worship can be seen as good omens. Dogs, geese, large snakes (such as pythons) and even rats (an individual rat that Balinese give ... [ Read More ]

Do Balinese still believe in Black Magic?

“So where do you live?” “Sanur.” “Be careful ya, lots of leyak (witches in different forms, including animals, fireballs etc) there.” Even though said half-jokingly, Balinese still see Sanur as the hub of the island’s black magic scene. This goes doubly so if you mention a village like Singgi (where my mother-in-law is from!) which has a history of fights between witches and stories of haunted alleyways, particularly after a Calonarang performance. It’s not just Sanur though – Balinese believe that witches reside all over Bali and – even in the 21th century where most of the world is now skeptical of ... [ Read More ]

How do Indonesians celebrate their culture when they are overseas?

The people of Indonesia espouse very nationalistic attitudes, and considering that nationalism is taught in schools from day one is hardly surprising really. There are also plenty of national holidays, and a plethora of regional ones – particular in Bali with its cycle of never-ending ceremonies – which are celebrated both publicly and privately across the archipelago. Many of these holidays are also celebrated by Indonesians overseas, but of course in a watered-down form and using the often limited resources they have outside of their country, and more commonly in private. This doesn’t mean that celebration has to be done ... [ Read More ]

What does Numitis mean?

Balinese believe in reincarnation and the word reincarnate (numitis) pops up a lot in daily conversation. In fact, most families so strongly believe in past lives and the cycle of death and rebirth that a short while after a baby is born they go to ask an ‘orang pintar’ (a smart person) who the child is an incarnate of. This person is kind of the equivalent of a crystal ball reader or oracle of past ancient societies. This ‘smart person’ is normally a balian, which is the Balinese version of a witch doctor (can be either female or male), who, asides ... [ Read More ]