Praying day in Karangasem

Jan 08, 2019

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During nearly one week, on the beginning of January, there was the festival at Pura Dalem Putri, on the road access to Besakih (the mother temple of Bali).

It seems to be a special occasion for the members of Pasek clan (to which 60% of the Balinese Sudras) belong. During all days of this period, from very early morning until dawn, cars, minibuses, trucks and vans bring groups of people for praying at that temple.

From what I’ve seen, the ritual is fairly simple: picking an area on the yard (no so easy, as it’s absolutely packed); stretching a mattress over the previous offerings (also not easy, as the garbage accumulates faster than it’s collected); presenting the offerings of food, lighting the incense sticks, praying). Then, having a bit of the food presented, repacking and leaving.

That was our way of lunching. My landlord’s family had arranged a daily praying trip and luckily, I was invited.

The first destination was further South –  Pundukdawa (Penataran Ratu Pasek), a temple not so far from Goa Lawah. It’s relatively unknown, at least among tourists –  probably because it’s still far from being finished. The parking lot is just a flattened, muddy ground, the access to the temple is narrow stairs and the temple area itself is mostly a flat yard with a small shrine and temporary bamboo and metal shades.

That doesn’t prevent an immense crowd from gathering in prayers. People go up the stairs and wait for their turn on the external yard. Once the previous prayer is finished, people leave and give room for the new comers. There is not much to see apart from each others, and three giant offerings: two elaborate sculptures made from pork skin, fat, meat, and internal organs, and one made of different fruits. Had this temple been empty, it had absolutely no interest. As it is, there is vibrant energy and colours, and it certainly feels good to be part of it. The “temple” is each one of us.

Pundukdawa (Penataran Ratu Pasek):

Once the prayers were finished, we headed back to the mini bus, not before some of us got small meatballs in spicy sauce and other snacks and drinks. It’s all part of the day.

As we arrived to Pura Dalem Putri at the end of the morning, finding a place to park was a herculean task, but our drivers knew a few secrets. The main street was also full of families coming and going, people selling offerings and many sorts of food (specially fragrant meat and fish skewers), clothing, toys, sunglasses, you name it! It’s a celebration mood.

After lunch, men went out for coffee and cigarettes, women and children for clothing, toys and fake glasses. Some inexpensive steamboats made of sardine cans were among my favourites. I wished I had one of those, as a kid.

Pura Dalem Puri Besakih and surroundings

Back to the minibus, we got to Pura Pejinengan Gunung Tap Sai, beautifully nested on the SouthWest slope of mount Agung. The purpose: ceremonial cleansing on the cold spring water. Apparently, it was already programmed: two pemangkus came with their buckets and for quite a bit of time, poured the water over most of us. It was respectful and joyful, after which we proceeded to the last prayers on the upper terrace, near the original spring.

Pura Pejinengan Gunung Tap Sai

I was specially touched by the presence, education and joy of the youngsters. The feeling of belonging was absolutely contrasting with the Western individualism.

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