Thursday, August 25, 2011

a gilded bed raised

a gilded bed raised
in the place of honor on
the bale gede

The family compound of Pondok Frog, like all the compounds in Nyuh Kuning, contains a number of structures enclosed by a high stone wall. Inside, the Mangkus and their sons and grandchildren live together. Each family has its own sleeping quarters and they share other facilities, such as the kitchen. With Bali's mild climate, many activities take place outside, on a porch in front of a building or in the shelter of a bale (pronounced balay), an open-sided platform supported by wooden pillars and roofed with alang-alang, a local grass. The small bale bengong with four posts is used as a shelter during the heat of the day. The larger bale gede has up to 12 posts and is used for ceremonies. 
          An ornately carved and  gilded bed sits on its own platform in the auspicious kelod corner of the bale gede. Robin tells me that's where they put you when you die. This bale gede is guarded by a large carved Garuda, the mount of Lord Vishnu, with a man's body and the wings and beak of an eagle. A kerosene lamp with a glass shade hangs from the middle rafter and, rather incongruously, a fluorescent light fixture is attached in the front. 
          Wyan Widia tells me that the structures inside the compound are arranged like the human body. The family shrine, in the kelod direction, is the head, the bale are the arms, the courtyard is the navel and the kitchen and rice barn are the legs and feet. To me, the bale gede is the heart, where everyone comes together to talk, to play, to prepare offerings, to get married and to rest in death.

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