Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Stranger in Paradise: The Brahmans are coming

The Brahmans are coming

Ida Pedanda Gede Sadhawa Jelantik & his wife, Ida Pedanda Istri Agung Ratna Sadhawa, at their Pediksaan ceremony
at Geria Sadhawa, Tegal Tugu, Gianyar, 23 September 2015
So many princely houses have folded lately — sold due to gambling debts, or just deserted under the weight of the combined ceremonial responsibility — that one starts to worry for the future of feudalism. The great palaces of Gianyar, Sukawati, Karangasem and Mengwi are all but empty: their liege lords having chosen to live in the Civic Centre district (Renon) so that they can be nearer Pizza Hut and away from the constant demands of their braying subjects.
Meanwhille, the Brahman houses are thriving. There are more Brahman priests (pedanda) on Bali than ever before and a new sect — theglambram  (Brahmana-glamourd an elite division of hotel-owning, Jaguar-driving Brahmans — are consolidating.
Will it eventually be like Hindu India, where the Brahmans now rule the roost and control the land deals; the ksatria having disappeared up their collective bottoms and down their perfume bottles decades ago?
The great Brahmana-kuasa villages of Bali — Sanur, Munggu, Buda Keling, Banjar, Kesiman, Mas, Manuaba, Tegal (Denpasar, Bajra, Sidemen, Kesiman (Denpasar), Kamasan (Klungkung) — are infinitely happier than ones controlled by the princely families, with their constant bickering over Tahta Harta Wanita  (Throne, Wealth, Women).
Ceremonial objects as part of the ordination
Last month I went to the pediksaan (priest ordination) of the ex- head of the P.D.I. political party in Gianyar — a dashing, tall Brahman I have seen on the ceremonial circuit over the years. The ceremony was immaculate: during the climax of the weeks of ritual, the novices have to ceremonially ‘die’ and be brought back to life with a kick to the head by their Nabe/guru.
The atmosphere in the Geria Sedawa in Gianyar is magical — all the palace ladies are fluttering about with offerings and special tantric power object and such.
The courtyards were packed to the gills with representatives from all the major brahmana houses in the regency. On the high pavilion sat the Mayor of Gianyar  A.A. Berata, the local prince, and Cokorda Pemecutan XI, my big love, whose son-in law’s uncle was being ordained. The princes roared and joked (about recent conquests) while the gathered brahmans sat pretty, doing real estate deals.
At one point, I escaped the fashion show-cum-ordination and visited the 12th century temple next door, which has a 500 year old inscribed lontar palm book the Tantra Dwijendra, telling of the visit to the temple of Dang Hyang Dwijendra Pedanda Sakti Wawu Rauh in the 16th Century. The temple, Pura Tugu, is a classic example of Majapahit-Bali architecture. Dwijendra is the great ancestor of nearly all of the present-day Brahmans (only the Buda Keling Brahmans are descended from Dang Hyang Astapaka, Dwijendra’s cousin).
Pura Tugu in East Gianyar
By chance, last month also, I visited the home town in Java, near Kediri, from whence the brahmana Bali originate. There, in a temple dedicated to Empu Baradah, was a family tree showing how all of Java and Bali’s high priests are descended from three Indian Brahmans who came to Java in the 9th century.
No ksatria family can trace their line back that far.
 22 September 2015: Sanur for 6 month (3 month) of my gorgeous niece Dayu Mas’ daughter.
Last year, my favourite niece from my adopted Balinese family married a Sanur brahmana — a sweet skinny lad from a major Brahman house.
It was considered something of a coup as our little geria (Brahman house) — an offshoot of the Brahmana Manuaba palaces of Bajing and Sidemen — is small fry compared to the great Brahman houses of Sanur, which all own at least one petrol station and whose women-folk carry designer hand bags.
Dayu Mas & her daughter at the Oton ceremony of her daughter at Geria Ngayasan, Intaran, Sanur Kauh, 22 September 2015
The high priests officiating were like Mr and Mrs Santa, beaming good will as the tiny tot had her hair cut, ceremonially, and bangles put on.
The Balinese Brahmans have an expression, “Jaga Kulit” (noblesse du peche), which relates to their specialness, being born Brahman.
The rites de passage of young Brahmans are therefore especially joyous, and quasi-sacred affairs with extra care being taken by the officiating priests to ensure that the young child is properly covered with spiritual insurance.
Willem Aarnout van den Wall BakeEditor, Wijaya Words, 2008-2015

Born Den Haag, 16th December 1940, Died Bali, 19th October 2015

14 October 2015: Bali’s best hospitals deal with medical emergency, brilliantly. 
Early this morning I found my house guest, old friend Willem Bake, prostrate, face up, barely breathing in the cottage.
My staff fashioned a palanquin from an Anglo-Indian antique chair and we conveyed him down the garden to the car and then sped off to S.OS.
They directed us to Emergency — a wide back door V where the trolley and staff were ready with oxygen and drip.
Meanwhile Willem  had turned blue, cradled in Amir’s arms in the back seat of my strassenpanzer (not a bad way to go for an old colonial).
“To Siloam Emergency” came the scream, and Willem was put into an ambulance, with Amir, who has barely left the compound in the 20 odd years he has worked for me. I followed in the strassenpanzer.
At Siloam Sunset Hospital it was 2 metres from the kerb to the door, a further 5 metres to the sliding door into emergency where a team were waiting.
“Dutch Ambassador’s cousin,” I told the waiting admissions nurse, “Mother of Queen Juliana lady-in-waiting.
Well, with that the defribulation paddles flew off the wall and before you could say “Kompeni….” we had him back.
I was then lead to a long arched reception desk to arrange finance — it was like the reception counter at Emirates First Class lounge at Dubai International, but surrounded by big cake shops. Willem’s wallet was produced, thank God all the cards work.
In the wallet there was $15 which I gave to Amir. Willem, a millionaire, went to the ATM once a day, to withdraw $25 in the ancient Dutch tradition.
For years Willem has edited this column from his eyrie in Den Haag; he would most certainly edited out that last paragraph, he was a stickler for propriety.
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Willem Bake's ashes confined to the ocean (Ngayut Abu Pak Willem, Pantai Matahari Terbit, Sanur, 22 October 2015)
Postscript: Willem passed away a few days after admission to the I.C.U. He will be sadly missed by all of us here at Wijaya Words, and by a host of friends in Jakarta and by his family in Holland, especially his mother.