Bali: Sacred and Secret

Bali sacred and secret.png
Bali: Sacred and Secret
Original language
Saritaksu Publications
Publication date
  • culture
  • customs
  • religion
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                    The book is a distillation in text and photos of 17 years of privileged access to both the daily life and sacred ceremonies of the Balinese people. As one leafs through the cavalcade of riveting images, one is impressed by the author’s humility and sensitivity. This full color coffee table picture book also serves as an invitation and challenge for those who visit Bali to delve beyond the veneer of commercial tourism to see the depths of a living culture. It is obvious from the photographs that the Balinese have carefully maintained their ability to be finely attuned to God and to the realm of nature through traditions both sacred and secret that supercharge the island with so much spiritual energy.The images portray a kaleidoscope of uniquely Balinese experiences and enviroments. A good many are of sights seldom seen nowadays in Bali, revealing a mystical world of theatre, magic and ritual. There are rare scenes of women bathing, tooth filings, chaotic rites, musicians playing gamelan, people worshipping, laughing, eating, dancing, posing in costumes. There are vignettes of death and cremation, of men fighting cocks, of performers grimacing or radiating serenity while deep in trance. The first chapter, The Setting, is devoted to Bali’s physical setting, its convoluted landscapes and surrounding seas. There are haunting tableau of misty temples, valleys, rice fields, mountains and rivers as well as the island’s back lanes, yards and hollows where you can almost hear the cocks crow and dogs bark as day begins. There are dramatic depictions of Bali’s extravagant ornamentation, handicrafts and arts, shots of the aboriginal Bali Aga, of the Hindu priest class, the quiet dignity old people, of family life, children, teachers, farmers, shamans, painters, sculptors, wayang puppeteers. One extraordinary photograph shows a prince proudly riding atop his mother’s cremation tower on its way to the sea for the queen’s second burial, the happiest day of her life. The “secret” in the title alludes to the immutable, underlying, often unseen forces of Balinese culture. In Bali, the sacred is given form that is visible and tangible, whereas the secret remains invisible to those who either ignore or deny its existence and have no reverence for the dimension that transcends the world of appearances and disorder in daily life. In the hands of such a skilled photographer and writer, one is reminded that what intrigues us the most about Bali are its people. The book’s remarkable panorama of images are also a reminder that this island and its culture are utterly unique, adaptive and resilient.