Wednesday, August 3, 2011

three fearless macaques

three fearless macaques 
lounge on top of the sign for
temple of the dead

On our way through the Sacred Monkey Forest, we pass by Pura Dalem Agung, the Temple of the Dead for the village of Padan Tegal. Robin tells us that this is the realm of Rangda, the witch queen of the leyaks, or evil spirits. She is depicted as a nude old woman with long shaggy hair, a hideous fanged face with goggle eyes and long, protruding tongue, pendulous breasts and claws. However, the macaques who roam the premises do not seem the least bit frightened by the horrific child-eater. Rangda means "widow," and according to one story, she was an 11th century queen exiled by the king for practicing witchcraft, who went on a rampage of revenge, killing off half the kingdom with the plague. She may also be the Balinese version of Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction and transformation. The temple of the dead contains a cemetery for those awaiting the proper time or funds for the Ngaben cremation ceremony, as well as the cremation site itself. This temple is always located south of a village. Although Bali is a fairly small island, there are basically only two spatial directions: kaja, an auspicious orientation towards Gunung Agung, the island's highest mountain, and kelod, an inauspicious orientation towards the sea. Kaja is considered good because gods and ancestors are believed to live in mountains, while kelod is evil, because demons live in the sea. Temples and homes are oriented so that the most sacred spaces are closest to the mountain and the unclean places nearest to the sea.

1 comment:

  1. thank you, Care, for reminding me of all that! i knew it sketchily once, walking the monkey forest road. i heard the scary countenanced ones were at least sometimes good guys in disguise, fiercely frightening away the bad guys....