The world seems to be full of mystery. Creation of God has not yet been unfolded. Each civilisation has tried to demystify this with a philosophy, assumptions and rationales through culture, through understanding what our ancestors believed in, through traditions set in by them and structures they built and lived in and used.
Balinese religion and culture is infused with spirituality, and one of the most charming features of this exclusive heritage is the presence of household shrines. These sacred spaces, known as palinggih, are found in every house compound across the island, serving as a focal point for daily devotions and offerings. A typical Balinese family house compound contains several obligatory shrines, each serving a specific purpose and dedicated to different entities; such as:
Sanggah Pengijeng- Positioned more or less in the middle of the compound, this roofed shrine with a single compartment acts as a guardian or caretaker of the property and is dedicated to the deified ancestors of the family.
Kemulan Temple – This roofed shrine consists of three side-by-side compartments and is believed to represent the Hindu triad of Brahma, Vishnu , and Mahesh.
Palinggih Taksu- It is dedicated to the Taksu, the God of one’s profession or talent.
Tugu or Penunggun Karang- They are dedicated to Bhatara Kala, a deity often associated with both demons and protection. Apit Lawang- This shrine, dedicated to welcoming those with good intentions and deterring those with ill intentions, acts as a guardian to the entrance.
Sanggah Paon and Sanggah Sukan- located in the kitchen, is dedicated to Bhatara Brahma, the God associated with fire and the sanggah sukan, positioned near the well, is dedicated to Bhatara Wisnu, the God of water.
Padmasana- It holds immense spiritual significance; symbolising the lotus leaf, traditionally considered the seat of God. Meru- The meru shrine, characterised by its tiered structure, is not commonly found in ordinary family temples.
Every morning each Balinese Hindu offers flowers and grains, wrapped in banana leaves, to the good spirits in the family temples, along with prayers and incense. Some offerings are also for the bad spirit. Duality is the core of the spiritual structure of Bali. It’s all about maintaining the balance between good and evil because without each other, neither can exist.
Every evening, as a child I would be engrossed in playing with friends in the courtyard. Mother would call us home and force us to wash our feet and pray in front of the small household temple with an oil lamp lit in front. What a similarity in the traditions, geographically so far.