on a gold penjor reaching
from earth to heaven
Three odalan in one day! The first is down the street in Made's family compound. Robin is sitting under a penjor which towers over the temple shrines. This decorative banner is an important part of every anniversary temple celebration. The narrow, tapering cloth is attached to a young bamboo pole, perhaps 8-10 meters high. The tall, arching penjor with its dangling streamers is designed to be seen clearly by visiting ancestors and gods from the holy mountain. The banner is decorated with a beautiful undulating design of a serpent with a green and gold body and red crests. His head is at the bottom of the banner, where food offerings are made, and his tail is at the top of the pole, where streamers are attached as another type of offering. The white and yellow material of the banners indicates that they are a holy offering.
Other penjor are decorated with plaited coconut leaf streamers, called sampian. Offerings are placed in a little bamboo cage, called sanggah cucuk, dangling near the top. This is considered to be a temporary throne for the gods when they come to visit. Tall penjor are typical of Gianyar, the province where Nyuh Kuning is located. At the wedding we attended, there were two penjor, a tall one with a white banner representing the man and a short one with a yellow banner representing the woman.
Robin leaves to visit Mangku Liyer to have an amulet made to protect her from the leyak sent by the witch. Pak Win sits with me and explains the symbolism of the penjor and its serpent design. The penjor represents the dominance of dharma over adharma, as well as an offering to the gods. The towering banner represents Gunung Agung, the highest and holiest mountain on Bali, and the mountain symbolizes the world, which is divided into three realms. Suarga or heaven is where Ida Sang Hyang Widi Wasa, "Great Almighty Lord," resides. Bhuwah Loka is the realm where humans live. Neraka or the underworld lies below Bhuwah Loka. In the beginning there was nothing but infinite, empty space. Ida Sang Hyang Widi Wasa asked all the other gods to come together on top of Mount Mahameru to create a new island called Bali, where the gods would be worshiped and given offerings until the end. The great world serpent Sang Hyang Ananta Boga supported the island from below, while the turtle god Sang Hyang Kuram Gni became the foundation and Badawang Nala became the underneath layer of earth on the island. This is why Bali is called the island of the gods.