Dream or Reality (31)
Touched by trance
text and image by Hans Smeekes
“Wow, you two look so heavenly,” is Tu Kodok, the frog’s welcoming phrase to Fifi and me, with his creaky voice, just appearing out of nothing in front of us on the edge of the window next to his friend Tu Tokeh, the gecko, who is sligthly smiling.
Like all the other nights during our stay in the palace we have a meeting with these two animals, while we are sitting on the romantic fourposter, surrounded by art deco artifacts and magical paintings on the walls.
“Yes, you can be right,” is my reaction looking at the same time to Fifi, checking her heavenly face, “because we had a wonderful day.”
“Explain, explain,” is Tu Tokeh’s reaction, enthusiastically jumping with his tail in the air.
“We went to Sanur, because a friend tipped us about the celebration at the Pura Dalem Kedewatan,” I start with the explanation.
“Sanur is famous for the people with magical power and this temple is known for its priests and the colourful ceremonies which take place throughout the year, did you know that?” Tu Kodok reacts.
“Yes we heard many people can go into trance at such an occasion and so it happened.
And we were there just at the right time, because when we arrived the impressive procession was going inside.
A very long row of women in the street carrying tall piles of offerings on the head. All the piles were the same size, the same fruit, everything the same.
First the very small girls, then the bigger girls, then the women, all in the same clothes, in the colours white and yellow. All the kebayas exactly the same.
Quickly I went in the temple to film the row coming inside through the gate. It was like a white coloured river. So many women. Everyone with such a serenity on the face.
I was touched by this wonderful sight, tears coming out of my eyes.
It was obvious there was some dancing coming up. And I put myself on the ground surrounded by the Balinese people. Everyone chatting and peaceful waiting for what was to come. The beautiful gate forming a nice decorum at the other side of the grass court.
Fifi found a nice place for sitting in the wantilan.
Raindrops were falling. ‘For the blessing,’ I was thinking and when it stopped the dancing started.
First the very small girls, just a few years young and then the bigger girls. All beautifully dressed. Then already several older women from the ‘public’ came up the grass ‘stage’ and were getting in trance.
The topeng (mask dance, done by male ‘actors’) took a long time. I realised the actors wore very holy masks, because I passed the masks already in the temple and saw with which delicacy they were treated.
The topeng was funny, but I could not understand.
And then the dancer with the white mask (Sidakarya) came up and sat himself on a chair. He made enchanting dance movements with his white gloved hands. Not long after that a woman came from behind him, making very slow dance movements, getting into trance, then another woman came up, also getting into trance. More and more followed. The eyes closed, hands grasping in the air. Slow and staccato dancing. When a woman was almost falling, attentive relatives were immediately there to support.
I was ... I was filming. Filming is normally like looking at something. But I was not looking anymore, I was experiencing the whole event, holding carefully the camera on my lap.
I could feel something supernatural was going on, I could feel the holy atmosphere. Suddenly I had a shaking from my head until my feet. So, it was like I also got in a trance. Of course not, but it felt a little bit like that. I was really touched by the moment.
It was a fascinating sight. And I was in the middle of it.
Then they all, supported by caring family members, went inside the inner courtyard. The priests very busy to bless the people with the holy water, to get them out of the trance. And me, I went fairly close to them because I also wanted a blessing since I was shaking, I needed it also.
I went back to Fifi and said ‘Wow!’ Fifi who experienced it from far had nevertheless the same feeling. We shared it.
They told me that probably the women were not just ordinary women. They are the helpers in the temple. And bring there offerings everyday. They have already this connection and these feelings. In a way they belong to the temple.
By watching the trance, I had almost the feeling I was in trance too. I asked later about what is happening with the trance. The trance is in fact a kind of cleansing, re-setting yourself, re-setting your mind. You feel very purified after that, they told me.
I don't know if I was purified but I felt that I was very close to a very special experience.
It was the first time in Bali that I felt there is more than you can see, that there is a God, that there is something supernatural. I never felt in my life that there was something supernatural. I never thought like that. But now, I think, ‘Yeah, maybe it's possible. Why not?’”
“How many women were in a trance?” Tu Tokeh asks.
“Many , it was like the whole temple was in trance, specially the women.
But I think that when one woman starts, then others will follow very easily. Influenced by what they experience. Experiencing the supernatural. If you are sensitive for that. And you are starting to dance. You have to be sensitive for this phenomenon, you have to be open, otherwise it would never happen to people, that is what I think.
I think that the people who watch this, share it in a way.”
“The audience surrounding is expecting,” Tu Kodok remarks.
“They expect it, because they do it maybe for them. My thinking is that they are cleansing the whole temple, including everyone who is attending, because they make contact with the supernatural, with God. It is difficult to describe, in words. Very difficult.”
“And your own experience, what about that?” Tu Tokeh asks.
“Regarding the shaking which I experienced: As a buddhist monk sometimes, when I was playing the big drum I could have the same shaking, followed by the feeling that I had almost no body anymore, that I was one with everything, able to feel the wholeness of everything. And that has happened that day also with the trance, being aware of the wholeness, that I am not separated.”
Tu Kodok: “It's like you are blending.”
“Yes, something like that: Blending. I felt like a drop of water then, taken by the ocean.
On Nusa Penida, one time, I had the same experience, joining the people in the procession. When walking in the procession, with the gamelan orchestra very close to me. I felt like a river going on, that I am not separate from the world, that I am whole with everything.
Touched by trance. Dream or reality?”
See on youtube: “Bali: Many People in Heavy Trance in Pura Dalem Sanur during Temple Festival by Hans & Fifi” and the many other videos (youtube channel: Hans Smeekes)