There is something special about Bali.
Sure, the streets are busy and town centres congested with cars and motorbikes zooming through every available space. However, every little corner and nook holds hidden charm. Though we stayed on the fairly beaten track with our 3-week trip to Bali and beyond, even the tourist areas kept their unique touch where the mundane everyday life melded with the sacred.
Though Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world, the different islands have different predominant religions. In Bali, the main religion is Hinduism with a local flavour. Balinese Hinduism blends theological traditions from India with Buddhism and belief in the power of nature and natural places. Names and religious philosophy evoke traditions and stories from India; for example, the Tirtagangga royal water palace and temple by Candidasa means water from the Ganges and is considered linked with the Mother River in India so if water is low in the Ganges, the water would be low at Tirtagangaa as well.
However, rituals and dances express indigenous beliefs of the power in nature and its elements, which are influenced by spirits and ancestors. As an island famous for its impressive terraced rice paddies, water is especially important. Irrigation systems are interconnected with specialized networks of water temples and festivals coordinate “water openings” to flood fields downstream and mark important agricultural events like planting and transplanting.
In our experience, Balinese Hinduism seemed to have more dragons than I was used to in India.
We were greeted by ornate palm frons sweeping the sides of the streets as we entered Ubud.
“They represent dragons,” our hotel owner told us. “They mark a special festival.”
Every morning, little offerings were placed in doorways, on the sidewalk in front of businesses, nooks of trees where spirits reside and anywhere else where a little good luck could be invited.