Dream or Reality (28)
Tumpek Wayang in the only Dalang temple on Bali
text and image by Hans Smeekes
Like the other nights during our stay in the palace Fifi and I are sitting on our romantic bed waiting for our two animal friends to appear on the edge of the window in front of us.
Tu Tokeh, the gecko does his remarkable tokeh sound eleven times and in one split second they are there.
“How was your day today?” Tu Kodok, the frog immediately asks.
“A little bit exhausting because we made a very long trip to the north of Bali,” I answered, “but it was worth it.”
“Aaah, please tell us what you did there,” Tu Tokeh joins the conversation with his high voice.
“As you probably know today is Tumpek Wayang, considered as the most sacred day, always a saturday, the confluence of important days in the various Balinese week calendars, which only happens once in a Balinese year,” I start to explain, “besides that the day is also linked to Bhatara Kala and Bhatara Rare Kumara, which story is being showed in the wayang play, the reason why we went to the Pura Siwa Manik Dalang in Pemaron (Singaraja). It is being said it is the only Dalang temple on Bali. We visited the small simple temple already last year and then the people told us that if we should have the opportunity we should come back on the day of Tumpek Wayang, which is today.”
“But why you go so far, because there are ceremonies related to this everywhere on Bali?” Tu Kodok reacts.
“Because this temple is, as I said, the only Dalang temple, so very appropriate for this special day. And already from monday the puppeteers are doing their performances culminating in that of today. People come from far to join the performances and rituals, specially the people born on the day of Tumpek Wayang.”
“Because these people are suffering of some kind of problem, we heard? Tu Tokeh asks.
“Yes this is what they told us and maybe you know the story, which is in fact the basis of the performance, the ‘sapuh leger’, done by the Dalang. There are many versions, but I will tell you the one which they told us.”
“Lord Siwa and his consort the Goddess Uma were on a journey at the sea. Lord Siwa was so sexually exited that a drop of semen fell into the water.
The god Baruna took care of it and the result was the birth of a giant with a terrible face. Longing to see his parents the ogre went together with Baruna to the heaven of his father Siwa, who gave him the name of Bhatara Kala. And because Bhatara Kala liked to eat human beings, Siwa gave him the permission only to eat children born on the day of Tumpek Wayang.
Unfortunately later another son of Lord Siwa was born, exactly on the day of Tumpek Wayang, he was called Bhatara Rare Kumara.
Bhatara Kala heard about that and tried to find Bhatara Rare Kumara. But with the help of Lord Siwa Bhatara Rare Kumara managed to get away.
Exhausted by the searching Bhatara Kala sat down next to an offering and he ate it. Not knowing it belonged to a Dalang who needed it to start with his performance.
So the Dalang asked him to throw it up.
After some negotiation they made the deal that Bhatara Kala did not have to throw up the offering if he stopped pursuing children born on the day of Tumpek Wayang.
The essence of the stories is always the same and explains why people born on this day require the ritual as done by the Dalang, because these people can suffer of mental difficulties supposed to be caused by Bhatara Kala.”
“It is the psychological behind it,” Tu Kodok comes to the conclusion.
“So we left already early in the morning for the long trip,” I continue, “and when we arrived at the temple already many people were attending the ceremonies.
From far in the small street we heard the Dalang doing his wayang performance with great elan. Coming more close the only thing we could see on the screen was a glimpse of the burning lamp, the puppets were only vague, because of the daylight. So we decided to go behind the screen, passing carefully the friendly people and the high priest who was doing his prayers opposite of the screen at the other side of the covered space next to the temple.
I immediately started filming and did not stop for almost three hours. It was very special being so close to the Dalang, kicking with his foot against the wooden box to strengthen his expressions, escorted by an assistent, who now and then played beautifully on the flute and two enthusiastic gamelan players. One of them was Ketut, who explained us everything last year and with his family lives there and takes care of the temple.
While filming I was one with the mysterious performance, like being in a kind of trance.
When the performance was finished, the puppets were put back with many respect and honour into the box. The Dalang, who for me was like a priest, was keeping the Siwa puppet high in the air and blessed with it the holy water in a big pot and the other attributes of which he was surrounded in the meantime. The screen was rolled up and then there was the sight of two rows of people, in poleng (black and white) cloth, waiting for the special ritual. I was being told to film everything, because this was the most important part.
One by one these people were cleansed by the holy water. The water flowing from a kind of basket above the heads. Three or four assistent priests were engaged in this activity. The shirts and kebayas were completely wet. The holy water was dripping from the heads. All the actions, also with the small cords and so on, which we know so well from other rituals, were followed with caring attention by the family members and the Dalang. The whole atmosphere felt very sacred.
While filming the impressive ritual I felt cleansed myself and I remembered I was born on a saturday also ...”
“Wow this was very interesting, but our time is finished, we have to go,” says Tu Tokeh with a sigh.
Fifi and I are looking at each other: Dream or reality?
facebook and youtube: Hans Smeekes