National Geographic : 1961 May
Indonesia: The Young and Troubled Island Nation the souls of relatives to the pleasures of heav en, which, to Balinese, is merely Bali with fewer troubles. When we arrived at the village, the cere mony was in full swing. The cremation tower, garlanded with gold paper and glass chips, was already being carried on the villagers' shoulders; the wooden coffin, shaped like a black cow, was in place; and a buffalo had been duly sacrificed. Amid shouts to frighten evil spirits, the tower holding the corpse was carried to the cremation ground. Someone struck a light and the flames licked upward. The tower crashed, the coffin crumbled, and the elder son raked the coals to ensure that all was con sumed. Joyful hands carried the ashes to the sea and sprinkled them on the waters. The soul was free at last. I was still wondering why a cremation should have been scheduled to compete with a festival celebrating Bali's New Year. I asked Njoman for an explanation. "It's simple," he said. "This man was of high caste. Custom says that until he's cre mated, the village is impure. Therefore, no festival. So they had a hurry-up cremation; now the celebration can continue." With Njoman Oka and art connoisseur Solitary Moslem Reads the Koran in Medan's Lofty Mosque Nine-tenths of Indonesia's people hold to Islam, but the rituals of animism, Hinduism, and Buddhism survive. Many mosques lack minarets. In the villages, drums beat out the hours of prayer because dense foliage muffles the cries of muezzins. Tiara-crowned dancer, whose heavy gold jewelry complements a velvet-and brocade gown, led an interpretive group that took a prize in a recent nationwide competition. Imaginative carvings dress exterior walls of a house in Sumatra's Padang Highlands. "This beautiful ar chitecture, like most things traditional in progress-hungry Indonesia, is fast dis appearing," the authors report. Jim Pandy as our guides, vwe attended many festivals. In the village of PAksabali, we wit nessed the War of the Gods. The gods, it seems, had emerged from the temples and were so delighted with the dances, sweets, and rice offered by the people that they had refused to return. A great night battle, re sembling a tug of war, ensued as Balinese youths in a trancelike state attempted to force the palanquin of the invisible gods back into the temples. "But why," Helen asked, "don't the gods want to return to heaven?" "Because they're having such a good time here," Njoman answered. "Then why can't they stay?" "It's too expensive to entertain them." Dance Provides Tense Moments One night Njoman took us to a djoged dance, village style. Here were no shy glances, no demure gestures such as one sees in the legong, the stylized dance done by very young Balinese girls (page 600). This time, a golden-crowned girl in her late teens danced artfully among admiring males, moving her brocade-swathed hips to the provocative beat of drums and gongs. She approached a youth in the audience. He HS EKTACHROME(ABOVE) AND KODACHROME N.G .S .