Friday, January 01, 2016

Suffer the swine

The upstairs bedroom in a village homestay right next to the temple. So pretty so quiet, watch the women weaving bamboo for the temple, young girls practising the elaborate dance they'll perform the next day.
Sun sets in pastel, incense burning, gamalan filling the gaps between forest and houses and hills and people, dogs wander lazily through narrow gangs, old men gather with prized cocks released from dome cages out the back.

It was some time before dawn... actually hours before dawn. I heard the pigs screaming. 
Before the ceremony they must kill the pigs! It has to be done this way, timing is crucial, it's for the ceremony. They kill the pigs right there, behind the temple, below the place I slept.

When you stay in the village you forfeit some of the immunity to street life, the big hotels will shelter you from all that if you prefer, most do. The illusion of an unaffected paradise is lost when you depart from the sanctioned hotel rout. When your ass hits the ground you smell the earth, frangipani baths are not included. Sacrifices must be made, rice cut, crops planted, tools sharpened, wood gathered, pigs killed. 

They kill the pigs. Too slowly for my naive Bule senses. I hear pig screams for hours, calling out for help... I anguish over their suffering... Please just make it quick! So much blood! They butcher the meat right there as the final crimson drops are collected in a tub, nothing wasted! Flesh is bathed in flames the way it's always been. 

Blessed offerings, prepared on site in small portions as prescribed. Presented on silver, bamboo with rice and fruit, elaborate and glorious constructions, not for human consumption. Held high on the heads of immaculate women, beauty beyond my reckoning. Girls and boys transformed through dance and costume and tradition become heralds of the Gods moving to ancient tones...
The offering is carried in the highest reverence and grace to the inner chambers of the temple, devotees and offerings blessed with holy water by aged priests of Brahma, clad in white and singular in their devotion. All is laid out as the tempo increases, energy spiking as though the journey through village and field has brought the congregation to a mountain top and God will once again appear, none doubt the presence of greatness. 

There they sit, low and respectful, a bounty laid before them, all the wealth of their toil and labour, a gift for the universally benevolent and powerful, the giver and the taker. All presented, the people, their offerings, their ritual. Given up to the lord of the Temple, scales of justice. The great balancing, deity of order and peace, death and life... if you are true. All can be seen, all are known, nowhere to hide. All is touched by the holy water, all accepted.

The procession is long, the pigs screamed for a night, the people not indifferent to the suffering. They remember their frailty. They give up their greed, killing it with the blade that slowly releases the animal from this world and so is revealed and released their own sin, offered back to one who will redistribute the fat and give them their share. Peace, Enough.


Chandra@GreenComotion said...

How beautiful - with all that greenery!
David - you sure are a well-seasoned traveller mate.
Have a Beautiful Day!
Peace :)

David J said...

Bali is a place full of magic. A lot is being changed through modernization and Balinese are just as entitled to the technological trappings of the modern world as anyone else, but they still manage to give time for traditional activities and maintain their cultural obligations. With all it's tourism development it remains a beautiful place, life goes on.

David J said...

An interesting reflection on Bali here: