Yesterday was temple day for us. It was an eight-mile drive to Tampak Siring and the most impressive ancient site in Bali, Gunung Kawi. The site sits in the Pakerisan Valley, through which runs the same river we live on in Tegallinggah. We parked our car in the lot next to all the seller’s stands, paid the parking checker 1,000 rupiahs (ten cents), and took the stone staircase down into the river valley. Half way down we stopped to wrap our sarongs and belts around our waists. We then explored around the ten candi (shrines). Twenty-six feet tall, they are carved into niches in the rock of the cliff sides. Each candi is believed to be a memorial to a member of the 11th Century Balinese royalty. The legend about them says they were carved in one night by the mighty fingernails of Kebo Iwa.
After the long climb back up the steps, we drove to Tirta Empul (holy springs), and the temple next to the springs, Pura Tirta Empul. This pura is one of Bali’s most important temples. The springs, believed to have magical and curative powers, bubble up in a crystal clear pool within the temple, and flow through spouts into a bathing pool where people stand in line in the water, waiting to stand at a spigot to wash and gather some of the special water to take home with them.
There was a great deal of activity, and I was fortunate to see two different dance groups – a boys group and a girls group – and to hear the gamelan orchestra. Colin McPhee was a musician from North America who came here to study the music in the 1930’s, and since finishing the book A House in Bali, I have been anxious to hear a performance. It is beautiful music, quite remarkable and enchanting to my Western trained ear. There are different size drums, large gongs, cymbals, and the small, xylophone-like gangsa. This looks like a small pot without the handle. Different sizes make the different notes, and they are played with wooden hammers. There are abrupt changes in tempo, and contrasts between silence and crashing cymbals. The boys performed a warrior dance – two groups mirrored each other in dress and movements. They wore ceremonial helmets and swords in scabbards on their backs. The girls’ dance was in two lines, all in the same costume, and their graceful hand and foot movements and the expressions on their faces told the story. The expressions on the faces of the audience also told a story. The children watching the dancers were as enrapt as any American child you might see glued to a video game.
D cooked an Indian meal last night, a real feast. Samosas – little pastries stuffed with potatoes, peas and spices that were baked in the oven. Yellow, mung bean dahl served over yellow rice with peppers, cashews, green onions, and yogurt on the side. Green beans, again! stir fried with the ubiquitous garlic, Thai peppers, and shallots. There was a fig chutney on the side, which was a tasty contrast of sweet and sour. And steamed pumpkin with butter and spices. It was all yum.