Bali Indonesia: TRADITIONAL DANCE (5)

Bali Indonesia: TRADITIONAL DANCE (5)

The tradition of Bali is so colorful, radiating with life from every corner of the island being that the beach on the coast or the lush greenery inland. It is something you will witness in everyday life, it reflects in daily offerings, traditional dances, crafts etc.


Petals next to statues

Daily offerings

Every morning you will come across small packed offerings on the beach for instance, carefully placed down on the sand. Those are the so-called canang sari dedicated to the supreme Hindu god. The small baskets are crafted from palm leaves and typically filled with red, white, blue and yellow flowers, along with aromatic incense when put outside homes and temples. And each component of the offering has a certain meaning. There are tours in Bali that will take you through this in details if you are interested. You will learn not only about the local rituals, but participate in a short prayer, get a blessing or a consultation with a priest.


Typical offerings in one of the temples

As for me, I was eager to know more about the culture. I was suggested to go and see the traditional dance in Uluwatu Temple. Walking towards the temple gives you an idea that you are going to witness something spectacular. The temple itself is the famous landmark. Situated in the south of the island (25 kilometers south of Kuta), on the steep cliff about 70 meters above the sea, the Uluwatu Temple or the Pura Luhur Uluwatu is considered to be one of the key temples and Balinese spiritual pillars. (See the previous posts for more about the Mother Temple, and Tanah Lot and Ulun Danu Beratan temples.)


Hungry monkeys on the wall

Monkeys on the wall

Ulu means the top, watu – a stone or a rock, hence the name for the temple “on the top of the rock”. It overlooks the Indian Ocean and the archaeological remains show that the temple dates back to the 10th century. When coming towards the temple, you will see hundreds of monkeys going in and out of the small forest. They are believed to guard the temple from bad influences and visitors often stop to feed them. You can buy fruit at the entrance of the pathway. Monkeys here are known for taking things from visitors. They will take your sunglasses, pull your necklace or your hat down. So, it would be wiser to give them something to eat, right!


Gorgeous pathway towards Uluwatu

That walk along the fortified wall on the cliff side was one of the best sites I have seen on the island. I was walking down the pathway, glancing to the Ocean on the right, giving fruit to small monkeys sitting on the wall, while the temple was peaking in front of me, on the steep cliff I was approaching. It takes about an hour to get from one gate to the other.


Steep cliff emerging from the Indian Ocean

Kecak Dance

The temple is dedicated to three divine powers of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva who, according to belief, became one here. So, it celebrates the deity of all elements of life in the universe, but it is also believed to protect Bali from evil sea spirits. You should wear a sarong and a sash before entering the pathway. (We talked about it in earlier posts.) Just follow the track and you will get to the temple and its stage for the traditional Kecak dance. It is performed everyday with the sunset in the background. Such a surreal experience for a European visitor, in such a surreal landscape!


Mail choir in the Kecak Dance*

The Kecak Dance is a form of Balinese music drama based on the Ramayana, the ancient Hindu epic illustrating the perpetual struggle between good and evil. It is performed mostly by a mail choir, waving their arms and chanting “chak”. It’s done in a hypnotic beat to scare away an evil spirit. It depicts one of the Ramayana episodes.


Interesting movements in the music drama*

There is no public transport to the Uluwatu Temple. It is most convenient to hire a driver or a guide in order to get here in time for the performance.


Kecak drama finishes with fire

Barong Dance

There is one more dance I went to see. It was while visiting the town of Ubud, north of the Nusa Dua, in the Batubulan village. This was the Barong Dance, a piece of Balinese mythology with ornate costumes, traditional moves and unique musical instruments. This dance depicts conflict between the good Barong, dressed in a fanciful lion-like costume, and the evil Rangda.


Uluwatu Temple tower

Many Balinese villages hold dance and music events for temple ceremonies. Some welcome tourists providing they discreetly observe dressed properly. You may also come across many one-hour dance and music performances that take place in hotels and other settings, that are especially geared for tourists. Even though they are not that authentic, you will still be able to get a glimpse of the Balinese tradition.


Fascinating costumes in the Barong Dance*

I was also mesmerized by the haunting percussion sounds of a gamelan traditional music and orchestra. The musicians play an assortment of instruments including native metal gongs, drums, chimes, cymbals and xylophones.

And one more thing! They say that when you put the Barong mask on your door, it will prevent evil spirits to come into your home. Oh, I just had to buy me one!

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20 comments on “Bali Indonesia: TRADITIONAL DANCE (5)

    1. Hey!
      Well, to tell you the truth, this temple is not even close to the off beaten track. It’s actually extremely popular among visitors – the Uluwatu Temple. And you can see why, of course, the landscape is gorgeous! <3
      Thanks! 🙂

      1. Not the temple I mean but the landscape as you walk into it. That’s the off beaten track. That’s how I see it as there are portions that you showed cultural aspects with many people

  1. I love your photos – they are seriously making me wish that I was in Bali. The cliffside walk actually reminds me a little bit of the landscape in Ireland.

  2. So interesting to read about the traditions behind the dances. I went to a rendition of the Ramayana when I was in Ubud and found it fascinating — the costumes are incredible. I would’ve liked to see a couple other types of dance too but didn’t have time.

  3. I absolutely love Bali and although I have been so many times, I have unbelievably never made it to Uluwatu! The rock face there is so beautiful. Maybe next time I’ll stay down that way and in Nusa Dua. I have seen the Kecak before in a temple In Ubud and its quite mesmerizing isn’t it?

  4. I lovvvve Bali so much!!! I’m also a huge fan of the arts and enjoy watching traditional dance performances. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see any during my last visit. All the reason to go back!

  5. I remember going to Uluwatu Temple but unfortunately we did not get to watch any traditional dancing there. We were fortunate, however, to go to a Balinese wedding and see dancers there as well as at a traditional Balinese dinner 🙂 I loved watching them!
    Thanks for sharing the details behind the dances.

  6. What a wonderful experience! I think it’s great that you’ve shared this because I’ve never known about it before, especially as you can’t reach it by public transport. I would love to see the dance one day.

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