Balinese Architecture

If, instead of walking, we look at Balinese villages from above the impression of order is no less extraordinary. Houses are all identical and strikingly parallel in layout with family temples, kitchens and rooms occupying the same relative position in the walled compound.

Large temples, likewise, all have the same structure with their main shrines occupying the same 'kaja kangin' (east-mountain ward) corner and villages, all with the same banyan tree, in the vicinity of the similarly located princely mansion.

And, all around this orderly world, the greenness of the trees and the glitter of rice fields. More than any of the so-called tourism 'objects' vaunted by the industry, it is in this harmonious integration of Man and Nature that the genuine charm of Bali can be found.

Traditional architecture in Bali originates from two sources. One is the great Hindu radiation brought to Bali from India via Java. The second is an indigenous architecture pre-dating the Hindu epic and in many ways reminiscent of Polynesian building.

Even the Balinese it has been noted, is surrounded by a stone wall dividing its sacred precincts from the village very much like Hawaiian and Tahitian places of worship.

Religion and Architecture

THIS Balinese sense of order and harmony, beside the peculiar constraints of an agrarian tradition, are based on principles of the Hindu-Balinese religion, and in particular its emphasis on balance between Man, God and Nature.

Depicted as a microcosm, Bhwana Alit or 'Small World', Man is expected to exist in his natural environment in a way, which conforms to the macrocosmic order of things -the Bhwana Agung or literally Larger World.

In other words he reshapes his environment on the dual model of himself and the Macrocosm. As formulated in the Asta Kosala Kosali manuscripts all architectural structures or elements of urban planning should reproduce the tripartite order of both the world and the human body, which are each divided into upper (utama), middle (madia) and lower (nista) parts.
Every building, compound and territorial unit should thus have a head, a body and a lower body, respectively corresponding to the upper world of the gods (Swah), the middle world of humans (Bhwah) and the lower world of demons (Bhur).

To practically apply these cosmological principles, a system of orientation is also needed. It is determined by the crossing of two natural axis, that of the rising and setting sun on the one hand, and that of 'kaja-kelod' mountain-sea or, more precisely, that defined by the upstream-downstream axis (ulu-teben) on the other.

Balinese Temples

BALINESE temples are divided into three parts; one inevitably passes through a split gate or 'Candi Bentar' to enter the first courtyard. Then a second gate rising high with the grinning face of a guardian demon leads to the second division.

Inside there are numerous pavilions used for various purposes. In the final courtyard one may find the 'meru' pagoda which may have as many as eleven roofs if the owner or temple is important enough. The black thatch is from the sugar palm and can only be used in temples.

There will also stand numerous 'sanggah' or spirit houses and pedestals, which will be full of offerings on ritual days.

Everywhere carving in brick, volcanic stone and wood will be apparent. Walls ring all. The Balinese have always spent a great deal of energy and money on their temples for it is the duty to repay the ancestors for the prosperity.

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