India has an expression ‘bride-zilla’ for over the top brides.
In Bali, rich, gold-embroidered jackets and loud jewellery are the new black and white — on an island renowned through history for its male peacocks. Even pale-face husbands are turning up at weddings looking like Christmas trees.
Balinese men once dressed for their wedding according to caste. These days everyone puts on a gold crown and becomes a garish prince for a day. The paste jewellery wears them, not the other way round. But the ceremonies are the same.
Wedding guests still dress according to their station — for example, artistic but not too flashy unless you’re family, as it is in the west— as do Balinese invited to cremations or tooth-filings.
And temple-dress is still modest out of deference to the gods.
The biggest growth segment in the temple fashion industry is the pre-teens — very style-concerned. Oversized udeng (headdresses) arede rigeur, and hipster waist cloths. See below for an update on male fashion in Bali.
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Last month I returned to Bali from a trip and flew into in a foul mood after doing battle with the taxi touts outside that retail labyrinth, they call an international airport. I drove home via Sidakarya, near Sanur, to see a friend. I was dropped off at the banjar (community) hall where an orchestra-lord of seven to ten-year olds were rehearsing gong kebyar gamelan for next year’s Arts Festival. The augse of airport-trauma immediately dropped away as I spied to the swaying turbans and glee-filled faces of the senior musicians. It was an immediate reminder of how the real Bali radiates through all the crap.
Now read on:
23 November 2014: To Cau Tua, Tabanan, for a gorgeous Brahman cremation
My sister-in-law Dayu Gede’s father passed away three days ago and today is his cremation. Dayu told me yesterday how her father had gathered his eight children, who bathed him with holy water. He said a few prayers, said goodbye, smiled and then died.
She was very proud of the ‘pure’ way he went.
This story was repeated with the merry widow present by the coffin today.
“What a sakti (holy) man,” I commented to the brothers.
“If he was sakti he would still alive,” joked one of the sons.
There was not a wet eye in the courtyard — the Brahmans of Bali sure know how to do grief-free cremations.
Images from the Pelebon and Mukur ceremonies
of I.B. Nyoman Redika at Griya Anyar Keniten, Cau Tua, Tabanan, 26 November 2014
Singaraja cremations are joyous affairs too. A few days ago I went to the funeral of the mother of a great friend. She had died at the ripe old age of 90 so there were masses of grandchildren and great-grandchildren for rallying into ceremonies. The procession to the cremation ground was lead by a trio of clowns: two, dressed as Balinese warrior princes, were carrying wooden swords which they had been rattling around the courtyard and the coffin all morning: the third carried a baby suckling pig on a stick and had three front teeth missing. He had a Hello Kitty doll as a necklace which swayed and wobbled as he did.
Images from the Cremation ceremonies of Ibu Ketut Sayang mother of Ibu Ketut Mulyadi at Singaraja, 11 December 2014
At the cremation ground the family members merrily scoffed down cakes and coffee while the priests did their work, until the actual body burning when granny's head was suddenly exposed and dangled from the front of the banana trunk oven like a papaya. To my horror the professional corpse burner then pointed an industrial flame thrower at the top of gran's skull and turned it on full blast, just as i was about to suggest — registering the aghast looks on the female members of the family's faces — that perhaps a sheet of corrugated iron could be placed in front of the smouldering head. The flame-thrower assisting then opened a plastic glass of Aqua and squirted water down into the gaping mouth. It was grotesque and a test for the composure of all present but we all kept staring. Macabre behaviour is the flip-side of piety at many Balinese ceremonies.
11 December 2014: Sugian Jawa Holiday, which commemorates the arrival of the Majapahit (Javanese people in Bali at the end of the Hindu Majapahit Era (mid-16th century)
Tonight is the temple festival at the Pura Tambang Badung the seat of the God Dalem Majapahit and the pride and glory of the Rajas Badung (generations of Cokorda Pemecutan.
There is an eerie quiet at the temple tonight as our raja (CP XI) is not here. He is in jail serving out a manslaughter sentence — the Gong Gede gamelan and the band of temple priests are the only sign of life. One of the king’s half-brothers is sitting alone, next to the officiating priest, Mangku Dana, with the 92 year old retainer of CP X but the usual loyal band of vassal princes and the extended royal families are not here.
Last week some pretenders tried to usurp the king but failed. There was even a raid by thugs on the palace — CCTVs were dismantled and the Cokorda Istri (queen) ordered to leave the palace — but it failed.
After prayers, I took my group of CP XI loyalists to the jail hospital where the Cokorda is recovering from a hernia operation. He is thrilled to see us and interrogated me about the temple and the royal surrogates and the state of the realm.
I give him my 2015 desk calendar (of hotties) and he asks if he is in it. Present are his sister and second son and some merry men.
The Cokorda offers me a Dunkin Donut and then pulls down his trousers to show me his hernia scar.
With the jam donut in one hand I feel uniquely privileged as the first male pale-face to see the royal bush.
We talk of my morning visit to the 16th century Brahman house at Sukasada in North Bali, the vile Balinese gutter press who make salacious reports on the state of his realm and extra marital sex, his favourite subject.
After an hour we all leave beaming, having been in the presence while eating iced donuts.
12 December 2014, Sugian Bali, the holiday for Balinese not of Majapahit decent Sugian are the days when everyone masugi (washes one’s face) in preparation for the ten-day Galungan-Kuningan season which follows.
Family house shrines are cleaned and decorated. Today’s Sugihan Jawa is also a Kajeng Kliwon in the sixth month. That time of the year when Kuta closes all its roads and Barongs parade in the streets before heading off for a Barong a-thon at Pura Dalem temple near Kuta Square.
It is a joyous morning for Kuta and the trance dancers are amazing — Kuta prides itself on having the spookiest Barong dances on the island and uses these occasions to show the world that, despite the bogans (Ozzie hoons), the hooter bars and the rampant commercialization, the culture is still incredibly strong.
In the afternoon I play Bad Mrs. Santa at our office’s annual Christmas party. Every year I make it into a bit of a pantomime horror show to teach the doe-eyed kiddies the real message behind the pale-face’s religion. They never fail to scream in protest when forced onto Santa’s knee for a photo.
This year I am doing Psycho-Beyonce Santa in a floral Fijian frocks and fright wig. Like most Balinese ceremonies every year there’s a madman in drag.