Attending Balinese ceremonies can be a fun and interesting experience and one I am glad to do once in a while. This last Sunday morning I set off in the direction of Besakih temple in Karangasem, East Bali. My friend Trisna (Nyoman Trisnawati) was marrying Bert O’Brien from Australia and they asked me to be the witness. Realizing my part was more token than anything else, I wasn’t too worried about the official start time of 10am. Most people who have attended a Balinese wedding will remember there is a lot of sitting around and waiting, chatting and generally letting the priests get on with their duties. Arriving around 10.20am I was greeted by one of Trisna’s uncles out on the main road in Nongan, just south of Besakih. My outfit consisted of a brown sarong with gold thread, a sash, blue Balinese jacket and udang (head-wrap).
Inside the family compound 50 relatives waited. Underneath a small pavilion, a dozen or so members of the banjar sat, with Trisna and Bert. “He’s here,” someone said, or words to that effect and shortly after the banjar fellows started reading the couple their marriage duties.
A white-robed pedanda (Balinese high- priest) said some official words of advice, as did other banjar members. All of a sudden the group turned to me and said “Pak Nick, we ask you to say something.” My comments were that I witness the wedding and offer my best wishes.” Official documents had to be signed including myself having to sign in 2 places at the witness on the ‘groom’s side’. The pedanda gave Bert the Balinese name Made Trisna, which brought laughter to all present. The whole affair lasted maybe 20-30 minutes, with an invitation to eat coming directly after. Guests gathered around a buffet selection of standard Balinese fare, including sate lilit, sate babi and lawar. The banjar guys, who consisted of married men aged from 22 to 60+ were great to me and we sat chatting. After mentioning I’m partial to arak, a large bottle appeared along with 3 glasses. A drop of the hard stuff never hurt anyone and it seemed to make conversation move along on this occasion.
Another ceremony conducted at a family temple 3 km away, was accompanied by a large group of women. The house was where Trisna’s mother (deceased) used to live so the women were paying respects to her along with Trisna and Bert. Sitting under another bale structure with the married couple I told Bert he got off lightly, only having a relatively short ceremony and a touch of lipstick. My situation in Java back in 2005 took a week and other Balinese weddings I’ve attended were way more involved.
Opinions shared by the banjar men in Nongan:
•There were no ‘bules‘ living in the area.
•The Nongan / Besakih area is a good place to live with most people farming rice and other crops.
•Its safe for westerners to buy land there and the police protect rather than extort.
•The basic culture / beliefs / ritual customs of Bali and Java are very similar, even though ‘higher’ / foreign religions have come in.
•Many young people have little respect for authority / teachers and are pre-occupied with modern gadgets, seeking instant gratification.
•Many young people do not persevere with their high school English.
•The beggars in Seminyak / Kuta who hail from Karangasem are just lazy and its not the Balinese village way to beg for a living.
My journey back to Seminyak was via Klungkung and Gianyar. All in all it was a good experience and I am glad to have helped 2 friends with their wedding.