National Geographic : 1963 Sep
Sindhu, a tall, straight man with an ascetic face and crisp graying hair, was just finishing a class in English. I introduced myself. I had known his younger brother in Djakarta. Mr. Sindhu offered to show me Bali the next day. He remarked that he had just returned with his family from the temple of Besakih, halfway up Mount Agung. They and thousands of others were worshiping in the holiest of ceremonies, the Eka Dasa Rudra, held not more than once every hundred Balinese years. (A Balinese year has only 210 days.) Agung had been dormant since 1843. Neigh boring Gunung Batur, whose 5,633-foot height is half that of Agung, erupted six times between 1921 and 1926-but not Agung. And yet, as my friend would remember as long as he lived, in the midst of the ceremonies Agung stirred. The earth trembled, and black smoke boiled from the crater. Volcanic cinders rained on the worshipers, and small livid streams of lava coiled down the mountainside. Truly the gods-Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, the Hindu Balinese trinity-were manifesting themselves. Mr. Sindhu said the priests called out to the worshipers, "Are you not afraid?" "No, we are not afraid," the people responded with a mighty shout. The ceremonies continued and the volcano seemed to quiet down. Girls Dance to Gamelan Music I said good night to Mr. Sindhu and walked back to the hotel for the dancing. The dancers, girls no older than 12 or 13, wore golden sun burst headdresses atop glossy hair. Their lithe bodies were wrapped tightly in cloth of gold and green and scarlet. Out on the lawn, members of the gamelan, or orchestra, tuned up their handsomely carved instruments-all percussion, like xylophones or marimbas of various tones and sizes. There were two drums, the larger a male, the smaller natu rally a female. The musicians wore dark-red sarongs. Their bare, tawny torsos glistened in the lamplight. The slim girls danced out the age-old tales of Bali-of gods and demons and witches, and of beautiful princesses in peril of their virtue. It was the next morning, soon after Mr. Sindhu and I set out, that we noticed the tapping on the roof. A rain of volcanic gravel-gray like salt and pepper mixed-was falling. A volcano was erupting, and its ashfall reached nearly Sword in hand, a dancer re-creates war's drama. Tiara and armlets are gilt leather. HS EKTACHROMESAND KODACHROME (CENTER) BY JOHN SCOFIELD © N.G.S. 443 Delight in the dance brightens the face of a spectator at Ubud's village festival. Demon wears hibiscuses. Soft stone erodes quickly; new images are made often.