A most unusual ceremony

This is about one of the more unusual Balinese ceremonies.  Barong Berutuk only occurs in Trunyan village deep in the volcanic caldera, in the shadow of Mount Batur, on the edge of Danau Batur.

The boys make their own costumes and whips

The boys make their own banana leaf costumes and whips

It is supposed to happen every two years – but it’s been over 10 years and so I felt very privileged to be there for two days of the ceremony for ‘the Lock of the World’.

It inspired me to write this poem:

Forests burned their message on the hillsides

Forests burned their message on the hillsides

Barong Berutuk (Pancaring Jagat – Lock of the World)

They’d been waiting
far too many years
for this sacred ceremony

so long
that the lake rose up
as a reminder

forests burned
their message on the hillsides
the mighty volcano simmered…

An auspicious day finally arrived
and with it
boys of the village took their barefoot place

a flounce of dried banana leaves

a flounce of dried banana leaves

on the soil of temple grounds
shielded by inhuman masks
dressed in a flounce of dried banana leaves.

Three days of fasting
delivered an excess of energy
to these youth

disguised perhaps
as nature’s spirits
but is it a disguise?

Prowling the courtyard
whipping as a healing
letting out bad blood

island-wide guests
dare to get close
as long whips push them back.

Whipping as a healing

Whipping as a healing

People in bright colours
a roar from the crowd
when their neighbour is caught off-guard, lashed

offerings given
blessings received
the white masks are most powerful
so they say.

White masks are most powerful

White masks are most powerful

Brave souls get close
bartering cigarettes
for a touch of the handle
upon bowed heads

risking a beating
in exchange for banana leaves
like rare prized feathers
dry and brittle

symbols of good fortune
worn behind ears
of the fortunate.

And so the dance goes on
for two scorching days
paid for by a government

Prowling the temple courtyard

Prowling the temple courtyard

who know of its importance
for the
lock of the world

for without harmony here
to turn the key in the heart
the whole land risks turmoil

as already threatened
by nature’s uprising
though tomorrow her fires
will rest once more

Temple adorned with offerings

Temple adorned with offerings

 

 

 

Ketut and Martini leaving the temple gates

Ketut and Martini leaving the temple gates

 

Towards the end of the ceremony there’s a dance by two of the boys – one representing a male the other representing a female.

Their performance, crouched low to the ground, resembles a cock fight – banana leaf feathers rustling.

They need to connect at the end of the dance – it’s a symbolic way of saying that the boys of the village will find a wife.

Male female mock fight

Male female mock fight

Then, at the very end of the day, they’ll all jump into lake Batur, banana leaf feathers and all.

And we return in the back of the same truck that took us there:

Travelling - the Balinese way

Travelling – the Balinese way

Thanks again to Gede and his family for another amazing cultural experience.

 

 

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