Wow! What a colourful couple of weeks I have had. It’s been a series of ceremonies for me amongst packing up and getting ready to leave. I went to a village ceremony in Karangasem with Joe and Rosie; a cremation of an elderly relative of my friend Yuli in Singaraja; and finally a temple’s birthday ceremony with the school kids in Sangeh.
If reincarnation does exist, I want to be a Hindu in my next life. I truly admire the Balinese dedication and the level of importance that they give to their faith. Rain, hail or shine (literally) on these important occasions, the community comes together and has one almighty celebration. The themes and run of the day seem quite alike to me now that I have been to so many different ceremonies. Of course, there is a myriad of differences unbeknown to me, but for the most part there is a familiarity to them.
What I have witnessed is this. There are four main elements of these ceremonies, and if you take these principals they really fit into religious celebrations across all faiths.
The start is always a gathering for prayer, led by beautiful music and in this case Pemangku’s (Hindu Priests) singing mantras in Sanskrit, a throaty melody that floats over the congregation.
Secondly, there is normally some sort of procession with countless faithfuls in a vibrant collage of colours filing down jungle paths, rice fields, closed off roads or even alongside busy urban streets, where stopping traffic is the norm.
Thirdly, the offerings are spectacular and very impressive. The effort, expense and meticulous detail that goes in to these handmade delights adorned with fruit, flowers, incense, cakes or sometimes just whole suckling pigs, is extraordinary. I’ve been lucky enough to make offerings with my friend Yuli and the care and love that is placed with every element is simply beautiful. Every component is perfectly placed as this is an offering to God, in thanks, in celebration or in honour of just being Him ; and on these occasions only the best will do.
Lastly but certainly not least is the food. At all ceremonies there is always a feast. An array of delicious local cuisine is supplied by different members of the community to feed the masses. Offerings are also returned home to be shared and enjoyed: succulent meats, exotic fruits, sweeties; the best you can afford.
This coming together of the entire community, including those who have moved away, makes me think of Christmas, Diwali, Passover or Eid . It is a time of celebration with religious significance. People travel far and wide to celebrate with their community and their family, whether it be these significant dates or other religious events like weddings, funerals or christenings. It’s a time for family, for unity and for celebration. Sometimes the message is lost thanks to commercialism . But we break bread, we share wine and we honour what we have in our lives. Thanksgiving too is a coming together of our loved ones, new and old, a tradition that is alive and well in the United States. In Brunei, the Sultan opens his home to everyone, regardless of religion, to come and feast in the palace in the three days of Eid Ul Fitri following Ramadan.
This commonality of feast, community and honouring our God, our traditions, are another reminder of our similarity of how religions (so different in our minds), are built on very similar ground root principals. The celebrations, the inclusion of music and of course the feast are common themes amongst all religions.
Why must we fight? We are all inhabitants of this great planet, and far more alike than we give ourselves credit for. For me I am enjoying festivals, ceremonies and celebrations of any faith and hey, if there’s food, I’m always in!
Yours in Faith,
The Unlikely Pilgrim