Villages of Bali

The idea of balance is central to Balinese philosophy and way of life. Nature and Man meet and complement each other.

The villages are a study in order. Hidden behind the same mud walls, there will be the same red tiles of the same family pavilions with, again thirty meters apart, the same thatched puppet houses: the family temples (sanggah/merajan). Then, there will be a big tree, two slit logs hanging from its branches, with a couple of shrines under its shade and a nearby hall: the banjar (neighbourhood) community hall. An atmosphere of calm, order and collective belonging prevails.

The basic Balinese territorial unit is desa (village), whose surface covers both the wet land of the ricefields, and the dry land of the compounds and related gardens, temples and roads. To the wet land, correspond the irrigation units or subak, and to the dry and inhabited land, the community wards or banjar, each with their temples and organisations.

The Balinese desa (village) is typically host to a set of three village temples, the kahyangan tiga, each related to a focal aspect of the village's symbolic life: the origin with pura puseh (navel temple) located mountainward, where the tutelary gods of the village and its founders are worshipped; the territory itself with the pura desa, located in the centre of the village, where meetings of the village assembly and the rituals of fertility are held; the temple of the ded (pura dalem), located down ward, where the forces of death and the netherworld are worshipped, and near which burials take place. Besides these territorial temples, there is also a temple for each banjar (bedogol or pura banjar), a temple for each subak, and the various temples of the local sub - clans (pura dadia or pura panti), each of which with its own calendar of festivals.

All temples of the kahyangan tiga are of paramount importance in the local rituals. Most ceremonies, at the level of the household or of other local temples, cannot take place before a "notification offering" (pejati) of the kahyangan tiga. The most important though, is arguably the pura desa, or village territorial temple, as evidenced by the honor shown to its god, the Batara Desa, who is usually given the forefront position during the village processions of gods. The village community (desa pekraman) corresponds in practise to the congregation of the pura desa, whatever the other affiliations. It is headed by the bendesa adat.

Much of the ritual work at the village level is shared among the various banjar, for example, one banjar may look after the pura desa for the upcoming festival and another banjar for the next one. Each banjar redistributes the work entrusted to it to its vision of the kelian banjar or neighbourhood headman. No ritual activity can normally take place without the latter's involvement and participation.

The banjar is a grouping of anything between fifty and two hundred individual compounds. The word banjar originally referred to a row of houses, thus to the physical clustering of compounds into a neighborhood, with a temple and a community. Nowadays, most of these banjars have split, and the banjar community is no more strictly territorial. Two banjars can occupy the same territory, and banjar members sometimes live kilometres away from the core of community.

The banjar makes up an association called the "banjar suka duka" or "the association for the sharing of joy and pain" This refers to the function played by the group in the performing of specific social services or work the ayahan within the larger structure of the village (desa). These bonds are arguably the most important of all found in the network of village associations.

The basic social unit of the banjar is the couple (pekurenan). Only married couples are full banjar members and subjected to the banjar rights and obligations. The decisions are taken by the assembly (sangkep) of the banjar's male members, the krama banjar, which usually takes place every 35 days. The decisions are taken on the basis of unanimity, The banjar is now, since 1979, the lowest administrative structure of the national administration, directly under the authority of the perbekel / lurah (supra - village head) and beyond the traditional village headman (bendesa adat). There are also two types of kelian banjar, the kelian dinas, who is in charge of the administrative aspects of the banjar life, and the kelian adat, who looks after the customary aspects in collaboration with the bendesa adat. They usually work hand in hand, unless the two roles are assumed by the same person.

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