Seeking the Indian Connect at Uluwatu Temple, Bali

Uluwatu

UluwatuThe city of temples, rice fields, scenic landscapes and exotic beaches, Bali is all about a historic journey through spellbinding cultural secrets that are not easy to unearth. The city dates its existence as early as 4th century and has impressions of the oldest civilization of the world – The Hindu Culture. Before I explored Bali, my impression about it was that it is more of a beach destination, until I took a dive deeper to seek the Indian connection with Balinese culture. At Uluwatu, there was more than just history waiting…


Uluwatu Temple – The Feeling of Homeliness

UluwatuI always have a fascination for sunsets and sunrises, as they reflect a place in new ways. It also gives the feeling of an ‘instant homeliness’ on a foreign land. But Bali is different altogether. There is more than just the sunrises and sunsets that define homeliness here. In the deeper layers of time are memories that do not appear on the superficial layers.
Uluwatu

UluwatuThe Uluwatu temple in the Ubud region of Bali is one of the many temples that the travelers come to visit on the island. What I didn’t know was how its history connected back to that of India. Although the Hindu epics such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata had always been globally contested as mythologies, there is more tangible evidence to prove that they aren’t. Simply because the layman identifies truth based on what he ‘sees’, the truth is undeniable.

It often depends on the eye that sees things – sight often separates the commons from the vision of the wise.

Uluwatu

Uluwatu

UluwatuAt a height of 80 meters above the sea level, the temple is like an archipelago of traditional and ancient structures that are surrounded by lush green forests on one side and a vast view of the Indian Ocean on the other. The sea waves splash back and forth the vertical cliff that is lined with the perimeter of the temple walls. The temple is guarded by several monkeys that have been believed to dwell here since ages.

As you wait enjoying the sunset the traditional Kecak Dance prepares to start. A vocal dance, it has more than a hundred dancers surrounding a bonfire singing in unison and displaying various episodes from Ramayana. No musical instruments are used in the performance. Another set of dancers moves delicately, depicting the expressions of the various characters of Ramayana, while the vocalists sing the empowering monkey chants, known as the Cak. As the drama moves ahead, it only gets more and more exhilarating..

Uluwatu

Even today, the monkeys dwell in the temple guarding the sacred archipelago. The entry inside the temple premises is restricted and one can only walk up to the temple gates. From top appears the glorious glow of the sunset over the Indian Ocean, as the waves gently sway on the shores, reflecting the colors of the golden evening.


Seeking the Connect between the two lands

UluwatuI spoke to our guide, Mr. Amrizal, and asked him about what was common when we look into the Hindus from India and Bali. The answer did not surprise me much, and I was somehow waiting to hear that. I stood near a majestic statue of ‘Bali’, the monkey king, as he is known in the Balinese culture, where I will get all the answers.

UluwatuI spoke to our guide, Mr. Amrizal, and asked him about what was common when we look into the Hindus from India and Bali. The answer did not surprise me much, and I was somehow waiting to hear that. I stood near a majestic statue of ‘Bali’, the monkey king, as he is known in the Balinese culture, where I will get all the answers.

Mr. Amrizal mentioned – “The Hindu culture walked into this island in the early 4th Century B.C. The values of the oldest culture bred here for more than 7 centuries during which most of the temples were constructed and remain intact until today. In the traditional Balinese scriptures, the monkey King Bali of Ramayana appears as Subali, the elder brother and arch rival to the monkey king Sugreev, the rulers of Kishkindha near Karnataka.

In the texts of Ramayana, Sugreev, the younger brother of Subali assumes the kingdom of Kishkindha, thinking that his elder brother succumbed to the battle against a demon that Subali was fighting with inside a cave. Sugreev in this assumption blocks the mouth of the cave and returns to Kishkindha, and assumes Kingship. Subali however prevails and on return, when he finds his younger brother on the throne, thinks that his sibling betrayed him.

The two engage in a decisive duel to claim the island in which Sugreev seeks the spiritual help of Lord Rama, who kills Subali to return the kingdom to Sugreev. King Sugreev, is so enchanted by the charisma of Lord Rama and his purpose that he and his monkey clan join the legion of other monkeys that have come along with Lord Hanuman, to form an alliance that will help Lord Rama to rescue his wife Sita from the neighboring kingdom -Lanka”.

The point here is- how two geographically distinct territories come up with the exact same version of the Ramayana episodes? Were the two territories ever connected? Were they part of the same territory long ago? Is it possible that they got separated from one another due to years of tectonic movement? Is this part of the land actually an extension of the Kishkindha kingdom?

Or does it mean that Lord Rama and his entire army traveled all along the Indian Ocean through various South East Asian Islands to come to Bali to make an alliance with Sugreev and develop the  island that still remains unhindered by any external influences even today.


Still retaining the ancient touch

The essence of Hinduism in Balinese culture seems to be ‘lesser’ exploited by the external influences in comparison to the Indian counterparts where Hinduism has been battered by centuries of invasions from outsiders. In fact, the humility in the gesture of the people is instantly visible, which is the core of the Hindu culture as also which led to its systematic destruction by other cultures.

This defines the 80% of the population that even today, start their day with rituals that are similar to the ones back in India. The streets are lined up with small corner temples and the day here always starts with offerings to the God, a ritual that is considered to bring prosperity, wealth and happiness on the island.


Taking a way back

I have bid good bye to another sunset today, but I am not returning empty handed. Far away from home, I have found something that relates to my culture. Though I have not found the answers to all my questions, sometimes I feel, some questions are best left unanswered.

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