[Written for Baliskulls]
In our Inside Bali series, we interview a variety of Bali experts and locals, and have them share their own take on its unique culture, and what makes living in this Indonesian island province so incredible.
In our second edition, we interview Putu gede Kardiasa — a West Bali local who currently lives in Denpasar and owns and runs Putu Bali Tours, specializing in custom Bali excursions that show you some of the hidden gems you won’t find in any tourist guidebook.
Read on to see Bali through Putu’s eyes:
What role do carved cow skulls play in Balinese culture?
Putu: Though these particular cow skulls do not have specific historical or religious value in and of themselves, they are certainly indicative of the greater cultural emphasis in Bali on artwork and carving. Art is such an important component of our culture, and these skulls are a reflection of how the Balinese people are constantly seeking out new and innovative mediums for carving.
Also, the cow in general is important in many ways in Bali. For example the the God Siva (or Shiva), known as the destroyer and the god of purity has a bull (Nandi) as his transport. Cows are used to help farmers in rice fields and also for some special Hindu temple festivals.
How do you become a master carver?
P: Often to be considered master carver, you need to make a great unique creation with incredible details. You have to spend many years learning the art of carving.
Tell us more about the culture of Bali.
P: The form of art that is most prominent in Bali is detailed carved wood, but we are also known for our beautiful traditional dances. In fact, a few years ago UNESCO recognized nine Balinese dances as part of humanity’s intangible cultural heritage through their Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. These dances are the three wali (sacred dances): Rejang, Sanghyang Dedari, and Baris Upacara; the three bebali (semi-sacred dances): Topeng Sidakarya, Gambuh, and Wayang Wong; and the three balhi balihan (entertainment dances): Legong Kraton, Joged Bumbung, and Barong Ket Kuntisraya.
Our special food is Babi Guling, a suckling pig seasoned in a variety of herbs and spices. We also highly value music, and have many different types of music and instruments that are used for ceremonial purposes. For example, Gamelan is a traditional instrumental ensemble in Indonesia, which is often used for music for Balinese dance. This includes a variety of instruments, but most notably the rindik — a beautiful instrument made of bamboo.
What is it like living in Bali?
P: Life is simple here. We socialize with each other, help each other, and care for each other. Often our close family and relatives are our neighbors. Most people either work as farmers or in the tourism industry. In the villages you’ll see adults working in the fields, and kids playing with kites or other traditional games, but you also see kids interacting with tech and people with the latest gadgets — it’s a mix of traditional and modern.
What do you love about Bali?
P: I love Bali because I was born and raised here. I’m proud to be Balinese. We’ve been raised by our ancestors to respect all creatures, pray to the great creator and our ancestors, and respect the mother earth that gives us all a place to live and stay.
I wish people would come and visit Bali not just to enjoy the beautiful scenery, but also to learn about it’s history and culture. Personally, I also ask for help to save Bali from big investors — at the moment we are fighting to reject reclamation of Benoa Bay.
For those planning a trip to Bali, visit Putu-Bali.com to set up a private and highly-customizable tour with Putu as your driver, guide, and expert in all things Bali.