Bali sounded like a deserving but too much explored destination. Lombok called for us. Traveling for some time in Southeast Asia, we needed the refreshing calm that the neighboring island of Nusa Tenggara province foresaw.
It only took a short flight and landing in Mataram, the capital of its westernmost island, for us to move. A few hours of rest later, we were already given over to discovering Lombok.
“Where are you going? "What are your plans?" Can I help you?”. At each exit from the almost empty hotel, we are approached by tourist “agents” and would-be guides who, in clear financial desperation, do everything to sell us their services.
Lombok Motorized Exploration
We just need a motor scooter and two helmets, which they deliver to us in three strokes at prices that, despite counting in thousands of rupees, were so low that they didn't justify us haggling.
We immediately took advantage of the freedom granted by the scooter. We escaped to the tropical and jagged coastline of the island. Turn after turn, we follow the half-slope and come across peasants in conical hats who lead goats and cows through the green fields at the edge of the asphalt.
At sea level, we see fishermen aboard small perahus (handcrafted boats) next to their villages spread over the sands.
We found that perfect beaches abound in Lombok. Using a basic map, we determine their names.
On the northwest coast, between Senggigi and Pemenang, Malimbu and Mangsit stood out. Further north, that of Sira and, to the side, Medana. We found them deserted. The real reasons for so much waste intrigue us.
In conversation with other outsiders, we concluded that in tourist terms, Lombok was then, the Bali of twenty years ago.
As we explore more of the island, we realize how it has preserved itself genuine, protected by a population, unlike that of Bali, which is mostly Muslim and traditionalist, which inhibits some Western “pagan” behavior, such as the tiny clothes typical of bathing inactivity.
The Sasak Muslim Majority and the Hindu Balinese Minority
Today, the Sasak Islamic ethnicity makes up 90% of the population. Hindu Balinese make up the remaining 10%. These stand out from the crowd and are respected by it.
Like the other smaller towns and villages on the island, Senggigi – the most touristic – wakes up to the call of “Allah Hu Akbar” early riser sung by the muezzins. It is governed by the following four appeals.
This does not prevent, at the same time, in the Pura (temple) Batu Bolong, the Mindra family, dressed in the precept of sash (handkerchief) and sarong Colorful carry out the elegant rituals of Balinese Hinduism.
The Fascinating Hindu Ritual of the Mindra Family
pass through candi bent (parting portico) loaded with a basket with fruit, flowers and sweets that they place on the stone altar. They pray in the first sanctuary and advance towards the sea. Then, they cross a new candi bentar to access the second sanctuary.
There, before proceeding to their purification with water, they leave another offering beside two small red towers, protected by nagas and three statues of kalas.
The kalas are the ugly and pot-bellied demons of time, insatiable devourers of everything and everyone that the Balinese try to appease, even more so with the arrival of the full moon or the new moon, which they believe influence the human mind and generate aggression.
This ritual takes place after sunset, during the setting of twilight. The Balinese believe that this is when the kala demons are looking for food.
Balinese Hinduism is more distant from Indian than Lombok from India. Like the Hindus of the sub-continent, the Balinese believe in the Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu trinity.
But they also believe in a supreme god, Acintya or Sanghyang Widi Wasa who cannot be thought, conceived or imagined and who, accordingly, is only very rarely worshipped.
Unlike what happens in India, where almost free and invariably bright images of these gods proliferate, in Lombok, as in Bali, the trinity is never seen.
The Bali and Lombok Indonesian Hinduism Refuges
The genesis of Balinese culture and religion lies in the Majapahit era, a kingdom of Indian influence that, from 1293 to 1500, dominated several indonesian islands and the Malay Peninsula.
This kingdom eventually had to take refuge from the invasion of the Sultanates of Malacca and Demak. Found shelter in Bali, off the great Java island.
One of the pre-Majapahit beliefs that the Balinese preserved was the kaja, the orientation of temples facing mountains, the sea or the sunrise, in deference to their animistic spirits.
It is out of respect for this belief that the Mindra family ritual takes place under the distant and sacred supervision of Gunung Agung, the greatest volcano of Bali.
Their faith has obvious effects on them that characterize Balinese believers. The tranquility of mind they share is unusual and feels like availability and friendliness.
They share an almost fluent English speech that is haughty but, at the same time, humble. And they combine elegant speeches with contagious natural smiles.
A few words are enough to authorize us to photograph a moment that is intimate. Despite not resisting abusing in the name of photography, not for once do they lose their composure or even their patience.
Instead, they ignore us as much as they can. Without haste or signs of anxiety, they complete their prayers and offerings.
The Forces of Good and Evil of Balinese Hinduism
The expression of Balinese Hinduism does not always result in self-control. Among its ceremonies are exhibitions of dramas danced on nights with a full moon as the eternal battle between good and evil.
They are respectively represented by the lion or dragon Barong and the witch widow Rangda. Its actors go into a trance. By action of Rangda, they try to injure themselves with daggers. Protect them Barong.
In Bali, the exhibitions of Balinese Hinduism are always sacred. Still, commercial versions are carried out that help to promote tourism.
In Lombok, they continue to take place almost solely for religious reasons. They have their greatest expression at the Ogoh Ogoh parade, which takes place in the capital Mataram, the day before the Nyepi holiday – sunset on March 15th to sunset on March 16th.
This is the day of silence and retreat that marks the beginning of the new Hindu year. And from Balinese Hinduism.
Bali and neighboring Lombok.