Yesterday we were invited to another Odalan, the birthday of a temple. With (I think) seven temples in our village and each one celebrating an Odalan once every Balinese year (210 days), these ceremonies are not uncommon. Multiply by all the village temples on the island plus all the household ones, and an Odalan can be seen somewhere in Bali almost any day of the week.
But this one seemed special. For starters, it was for the oldest temple in our village, centuries old. This temple has a spiritual connection to the magnificent temple site at Batur, the second most important after the mother temple Besakih. We don’t exactly understand the history but we believe that hundreds of years ago, long before there was a temple, the high priests from Gunung Batur journeyed once a year down the mountain to Ubud. A temple was built at each stop along the route, and ours is one of those.
It certainly felt ancient yesterday. As the crow flies it is located only about 100m from our house, and rather than walk all the way around the road, we took the track we call Jalan Tikus (Mouse Road). It’s narrow, muddy in places and there are several water crossings with bamboo walkways. Easy when the weather has been dry but we have had unseasonal rain, so a bit tricky at the moment. We walked that way for convenience, but on reflection it was probably the path taken by villagers long before any roads were built, so realising this added a dimension to the experience.
We have walked past this temple many times but as we have always been dressed in comfort clothing for walking, have never been inside. Dressed in adat (traditional dress) we were in appropriate apparel for the ceremony, if not for picking our way along Jl Tikus.
Surrounded by greenery and rice fields, the temple looks as if it has grown out of the earth and we were no longer in a noisy, busy village but cast back centuries with the spirits of the ancestors looking on. As people gathered, responding to the call of the kulkul,
children’s laughter and happy chatter punctuated the melodies of the gamelan. We were waiting for the arrival of the Pedanda (high priest) before the serious business could begin. Meanwhile the pre-pubescent young girls and boys readied themselves for their dance performances,
as did the Topeng dancer, an older man who takes on masked personas and ‘frightens’ the children, much to their delight.
An earlier than usual starting time, 4pm, meant that the temple was bathed in afternoon light and for this Odalan people made sure they were there in good time. Several people had told us the story of the previous ceremony, when everybody took the famous jam karet (Bali ‘rubber time’) literally. When the Pedanda arrived only the village head and a few other officials were actually at the temple to greet him. The phones went into overdrive as frantic calls were made to get people to make haste. A bit embarrassing but they could all laugh about it now.
And all the while we were in the company of people we see every day in altogether different contexts: the women who work in the new warung on the corner; the young man who washes motorbikes for his living, his disability never dampening his cheerfulness; another young man who repairs bikes; the children who play in our gang; our wonderful massage lady and friend and our Balinese family. Our tribe. And we are accepted as such. Pretty special.