Outer Temple - Inner Temple

In Ubud we met up with Linda, who had found a driver that would take us to Singapadu. Justine came along too, but Steve wasn't feeling well so decided to stay home. Linda had been at a Tumpuk Landep ceremony a couple of years earlier, that featured the very rare "Tall Barongs", and wanted to see if we could find the place again.

She wasn't too sure exactly where it was, but we stopped at several temples in the Singapadu area and asked around, and finally we arrived at the place she thought she remembered. We were a little concerned to see several tour buses parked outside the temple, and tourists looking around. However, these all left by about 5pm, and we had the place to ourselves.

A bunch of gamelan players were hanging around outside the temple, which was situated on a busy road that ran through the village. Noisy mopeds and small trucks were going by all the time. But at the temple, people generally just seemed to be waiting...

One or two players idled the time away playing on their instruments. This was by far the largest gamelan orchestra we had seen so far - a huge set, in fact. Many rows of gangsa instruments, a reyong very unusually set several rows back behind most of the gangsa, a huge line of gongs, sheltered under their white canopies, which amplify their spiritual powers.

The temple was in the form of a courtyard surrounding an inner temple. Surrounding the courtyard was a covered "outer temple" where the gamelan was set up and where people were waiting patiently, chatting with their friends from the village, drinking tea (we were offered some, free), and just hanging out. A group of priests were chanting from the Hindu scriptures, and apparently had been all day. They were completely ignored by the people at the temple.

From time to time groups of people would arrive at the temple, carrying incredible arrangements of offerings, and go through the tall split gates into the inner temple. After a while they would come out again.

We weren't sure if it was alright for us to go into the inner temple, but nobody stopped us, so we went in to have a look. The offerings were being piled up against a wall, and the people were praying and receiving blessings and holy water from the priests and priestesses of the temple.

At the front of the inner temple, not just one, but several Barong and Rangda masks were set up. It felt like a very powerful place indeed.

These are some of the offerings - fantastic arrangements of fruit and rice-cakes, and palm-leaf decorations - that women had carried in on their heads. The food is not wasted - the offerings are broken down by the temple workers and repacked into simple baskets, and given back to the villagers to take home and eat. The gods are fed by the spiritual essence of the offerings - the love and care that has gone into making them - they are not interested in the earthly manifestations. Once they have enjoyed the offerings, the food, now magically charged, can in turn nourish the families of the villagers. It's an extremely practical system, really.

The priestesses offer holy water - water that has been consecrated at the temple and now carries healing and strengthening properties - to the villagers. Holy water is incredibly important to the Balinese. It connects them to the gods and to their ancestors, and is offered daily - generally many times daily.

While we were waiting in the outer temple we got talking to the people around us, who were very welcoming. We were offered tea and cookies, and felt very comfortable. Linda knew several people who had arrived, and introduced us.

One of the people we met was Pak Dibia, one of the greatest Topeng dancers of Bali. He told us that he would be dancing later on in the evening. He also told us a little more about the Tall Barongs, who would, indeed, be making an appearance tonight. On this day of the year, the Barongs are taken back to the tree from which the wood they are made of was cut - an ancient frangipani. The tree from which the Barong masks are made has to be very old to have the diameter necessary to carve such a large mask. The flower of the frangipani is used to decorate the beards of the Barongs, and to provide the spirit that inhabits the mask a pleasing fragrance to enjoy. The particular trees that these Barongs were carved from were a great distance from the temple, and they had been gone for many hours - nobody really knew when they would be back. But it was important to honor the Barongs by returning them to their place of birth once a year.

While the Barongs were away, people from the surrounding villages and banjars were constantly arriving, often accompanied by beleganjurs - marching gamelans.

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Photos: Astrid, Martin and Julia Randall
All content copyright (c) 2002, Astrid, Martin and Julia Randall