the old culture from balinese and all i know will show in this blog

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Bali & Beyond - Craft & Culture

Hearty Welcome, Peaceful Gestures
At temple prayers a significant yet uniform array of hand gestures are used, from the series of prayers with flowers between fingers at the forehead to the receiving of holy water from the attending priest.
Photo by Vincent Herry

Photo by Werner Duderstadt

Photo by Ananda Yoga

As you might have noticed, from the first pages of this and every edition of Bali & Beyond, we greet and introduce to you through our Team Talk with an ever hearty welcome and that Balinese opening and closing remark. Go on, take another look.
"What do those mean?" you ask. The solemn utterance that you will always witness during your adventures through Balinese communities and spoken language conjures something that is simply expressed from the heart, but meant for the universe.

A humble opening remark of "Om Swastyastu" can be divided into two parts, "Om" and "Swastyastu". In polite Balinese social manner, it is common to greet one’s guest (all honored), or to start a formal discussion or to open a formal speech with the remarks. The greeting contains a hint of prayer and spirituality to it, from the word "Om", originating from the holy alphabets A, U and M (the letters of Brahma, Wisnu and Siwa, the holy Hindu trinity or Tri Murti). The Three are combined in one word. Su (good) + asti (state of being) + astu (hope), and this latter would mean, "in hopes that the universe goes in good accord".

So instead of greeting a simple, "Hi, how are you?" or "How do you do?" the Balinese would rather greet with hopes for the happiness of the entire universe! Which, the universe of course, includes you and me and everyone in the greeting as well. It can be addressed disregarding timeframe, either in the morning, afternoon or night.

At the end, a customary, and again heartily, "Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti, Om" closes, literally "Om Peace, Peace, Peace, Om". Santi is Sanskrit for peace. The three repetitions express the pray of Peace in Heaven, Peace on Earth and Peace in the Underworld. Peace everywhere, no exceptions.

If you call up a friend at their Balinese household – you will often be greeted with this opening remark. And the next time you meet up with a Balinese friend, try using it, and you will gain much smiles, respect and gratitude as a first impression, and perhaps make more Balinese friends. But the ending is disregarded for common conversational use. In actual person-to-person encounter and exchange of greets, both hands are usually pressed together at the chest and with a slight bow or nod.

This makes way to another silent language, the rich world of Balinese hand gestures. Besides the common greet and pressing of the palms, the Balinese are also fluent with gestures which perhaps make way to such a broad silent language on its own.

At temple prayers a significant yet uniform array of hand gestures are used, from the series of prayers with the aid of flowers above the forehead to the receiving of holy water from the attending priest. The preists themselves address the communal prayers with such eloquent hand movements and specialized bell-ringing. Such is the same with flower offerings. Pay attention as the Balinese place flower offerings at their shrines or roadsides, their right hand wrists wave in such a way so typical, gesturing the offering is heartily being made along with the ‘witnessing’ glare and mystifying wafts of incense.

The young Balinese constantly train their hands and fingers to become more flexible at dance performances and musical gamelan orchestras. The non participating little girls and boys at the communal banjar dance lessons spend a great deal of time playing and experimenting dance movements in imitation to their seniors or on their own.

This flexibility finds its most beautiful expression in the hand-postures of dancers, most of which are derived from Indian mudras, although they do not have the symbolic and narrative meanings as in the Indian kathaks, but purely ornamental functions. At a Baris or Legong performance try looking at the audience for a little Balinese boy or girl playing around in the audience, imitating waves or twirls.

The flexibility of Balinese hands and wrists is visible both in the utter relaxation of the hands at rest and the rapid flexing of the hands at the wrist that is characteristic activities, from bet-soliciting at cock-fights, the playing of the gamelan, and up to the Balinese surf athletes who ‘dance’ the waves in a Baris-like gait.