National Geographic: Bali - Masterpiece of the Gods


It has been called Morning of the World

Heaven on Earth

and The Last Paradise

Born of the fiery volcanic eruptions

Bali is one of the chain of islands

that stretches between Southeast of

Asia and Australia

On this isolated dot of land

an extraordinary civilization developed

which remains unique on earth

Here, vibrant religious beliefs find

expression in music

dance, art and rituals created to

please the gods

and placate and demons of

the spirit realm

Admiring visitors have long feared

this culture was doomed

But the Balinese select what they desire

from the outside world

while clinging to their age-old ways

Everything remains centered on a

religion practiced only here...

and life itself continues to be lived

as a dance of devotion

Rooted in cults of ancient magic

fostered by rites of a mystical religion

it is a pageant constantly recreated

by its artists

Bali, masterpiece of the gods

In the beginning there was nothing

All was emptiness

Then, say the old manuscripts

a turtle floating on the ocean

was created

and resting upon it

the island of Bali

High in the skies

were the flaming heavens of the ancestors

and over all, the realm of the gods

The depths were inhabited by demons

of the underworld

In the middle world dwelt the people

Early migrations added Malaysian

and Polynesian bloodlines to the

indigenous population

As the centuries passed

people and ideas swept in from India

China, and Java

Separated from Java by a strait of

just two miles

this speck of land 90 miles wide

is the only remaining stronghold of the

Hindu faith in the Indonesian archipelago

In Denpasar, the capital

the traditional and the new collide


Unquestionably the city is changing

as it attempts to deal with

congestion pollution

and overpopulation-problems common to

urban areas everywhere

But the people adapt skillfully

While utilizing material objects

and technology from the modern world

they hold fast to the powerful traditions

that give meaning to their lives

Some 1200 years ago

Hindu thought first fired the Balinese


The flames of belief were fanned as

successive tides of Hindu influence

washed over Bali from Java and India

From its precepts

the Balinese fashioned their

unique religion Agama Hindu

According to its teachings

the priestly class is the highest of

Bali's four castes

The high priest of Kamenuh begins

each day reciting magic formulas

accompanied by ritual gestures

to prepare holy water

It is used in such profusion

that the Balinese fondly call Agama Hindu

"the religion of holy water."

For the Balinese life is only apart of

a never ending cycle of death

and rebirth onto the same family

one step in the soul's long process of


Every newborn comes into this world

directly from heaven and is

therefore, treated with the reverence

due a god

The high priest and his priestess wife

officiate at the rite that marks

the 105th day of a baby's life

Until today

the baby was still so close to heaven

that she belonged to the deities

She was not yet a human beings

she did not even have a name

A temple priest purifies her

and magic symbols are inscribed on the

petals of a flower to protect her

While bound to the spiritual realm

she was never allowed to touch

the impure earth

Now, her feet touch the ground

for the first time

Relatives take gifts

symbolic of riches

from a vessel filled with holy water

and put them on her

This ceremony symbolizes the beginning

of the human struggle

The baby is now her mother's child

Rice is the divine gift that sustains

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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