Nusa Penida Adventure (Muller, 1989/2013)

Australian anthropologist Carole Muller researched various aspects of Nusa Penida in 1989, and reported on her findings in a publication entitled 'Nusa Penida, an adventure in 1990', published 2013. Muller discusses aspects of history and banishment to the island, the fate of the blacksmiths (Pande Wesi), the Bali Aga on Nusa Penida, and reports on her trip to Lembongan and various villages on 'Nusa Gede', and gives a description of the main temples. For her contribution on Nusa Penida textiles, Bali Aga & Pura Dalem Ped, see elsewhere on this site. Below article contains selected text from her book, which includes a great number of historical black & white photographs. Carole Muller's book can be purchased from:



Image left: cover

The first known foreign visitors to explore Nusa Penida was in the early 1930s. The events of the 'Short Exploration Trip' were recorded by Claire Holt who was accompanied by Bali experts Jane Belo and Walter Spies. She misleadingly called her essay Island'. Holt also mentioned that its original name was simply the 'Island' or Nusa. More importantly was the name later attached to it: 'Penida', which means 'pamor', the white meteorite metal, descendants of east Javanese blacksmiths (Empu pande) worked into their kris blades. Holt was republished with a collection of essays in Traditional Balinese Culture edited by Jane Belo (1970: 67-84).

According to Holt, Nusa Penida was a place of banishment for all convicted criminals in the kingdom of Klungkung. On the contrary, the judges in the law courts built in the early eighteenth century, called Kerta Gosa, were only responsible for judging, convicting and banishing members of the three highest castes (triwangsa): Brahmins and their priests (pedanda), kings and palace noblemen (ksatria, weisa) who committed caste offences and other crimes. Members of the three upper castes resided in all the kingdoms of Bali. Their Majapahit descendants, advisors (patih) and artisans such as blacksmiths (Empu pande) who accompanied them from east Java, only accounted for less than ten percent of the population. The majority of indigenous commoners (japa) who committed crimes and infringements of their village laws (awig-awig) were judged and punished by a group of elders and sometimes temple priests as they still are today. Commoners were never banished to Nusa Penida (Pucci, 1992: 17). Furthermore, in 1927, the first Dutch map of the Island names innumerable indigenous villages and banjars. Before my short visit, Rio Helmi and my 1990 aerial photographs of Nusa Penida also provided evidence confirming the majority were archaic Balinese settlements on the dry and barren island.

The earliest known inscription that mentions Nusa Penida is recorded on the stone pillar in Blanjong, Sanur. This epigraphical evidence was issued in A.D. 914 by the first named king to be mentioned in any Balinese edict: Sri Kesari Warmadewa of the Buddhist dynasty of Selunding, during the Iron Age of Bali. First discovered and partly read by archeologist and art expert W.F. Stutterheim in 1932, the complicated texts were published in his article in 1934 (Goris, 1965: 9-10, f.1). The texts of the Sanur pillar are partly in Sanskrit and partly in old Balinese. The mysterious inscriptions were also composed in two different scripts: Old Balinese and Early Nagari. In Buddhist contexts the latter is usually used only for Sanskrit. The Early Nagari script on the Sanur pillar suggested direct contact between India and Bali as it was ultimately derived from the famous third century BCE edicts of Ashoka, the Buddhist king of Orissa, South India. An informant said in modern Buddhist Pali language and script, 'bali' means 'sacrifice'.

muller-2013-map002Image right: Bali & Nusa Penida map (p.2)

According to Stutterheim's translation, the Sanur stone inscriptions seem to refer to several successful military expeditions undertaken throughout the Eastern Archipelago by King Kesari's fleet, including one to the nearby island of Nusa Penida (Bernet-Kempers, 1991:36,98,99). It is interesting to note in the last paragraph of Claire Holt's essay 'Bandit Island', that she refers to the early tenth-century stone pillar discovered in Sanur in 1932 but not to Stutterheim. It is evident Holt must have been aware of his article published in 1934 in Djawa two years before her essay appeared in the same journal in 1936 (Belo, 1970: 64,87). In fact, Holt was very aware of Stutterheim's work as she had translated into Dutch his famous book Indian Influences in Old Balinese Art published in 1935.

The language of the earliest anonymous edicts, between A.D. 822-914, were written in Sanskrit and Old Balinese which continued to be used in royal edicts until the early eleventh century (Goris, 1965: 2-21). The spoken language of the people at this time was not known. Traces of an archaic language and certain dialects have been found in ancient villages on the northeast coast and in the southeast settlements of Bali as well as on the isolated island of Nusa Penida (Bernet-Kempers, 1991: 37). More recent research in numerous ancient mountain settlements also indicate Balinese villagers spoke their own dialects and variants of the language and still do today. They use this language in a ritual context when they address their own ancestors and gods. Particularly important in this respect are the personal pronouns, the words for 'me' and 'you'. Inhabitants of these archaic villages call the ancient language and dialects omong kuna (Hinzler, 1991: 71-72).

Curiously, in Nusa Penida omong also designated the red, black, white and yellow colours of 'hordes of small capricious demons', believed by Balinese to invade the southern mainland every wet season causing epidemic disease, deaths and crop failures. They believe the demons are the followers of a malevolent deity who dwells in the most important temple on Nusa Penida (Nabholz-Kartaschoff, 1989: 185). This military metaphor seems confirmed by the dance, Baris omong, sometimes performed during the annual festival at the temple of Ped.

In Hindu-Balinese conceptions of magically dangerous space (tenget) an excellent example is the death temple (Pura Dalem) in Ped, the abode of I Gede Mecaling, the deity of cholera. It is interesting to note that in Nusa Penida there are no masks or cult images of this deity such as the tall puppet figure (barong landung) and those in Bali associated with the malevolent witch (Rangda) and her combatant, a protective, ambiguous mythical lion (Barong). It is only since the 1960s their masks were brought from Sanur and Kuta for the annual festival and a Calon Arang performance was held in the temple at Ped (Lovric, 1987: 34,51,54).

As mentioned above, the cholera epidemics occurred in Bali during the rainy season. 'The Balinese believed it was brought to the mainland by high winds blowing across the sea from Nusa Penida causing sudden deaths' (Lovric, 1987: p.326-333). In fact, cholera epidemics result from consuming contaminated food or water. The virus occurs under unsanitary conditions and the absence of sewerage and clean drinking water. It seems epidemic cholera is a relatively recent phenomenon on Bali and today it is still one of the most prominent threats to the welfare of human beings. Dwellings are chronically damp. The manner of cholera death is very dramatic and sudden. It can occur within eight to ten hours from the onset of symptoms if untreated. 'Cholera epidemics were indeed memorable events for the survivors of them' (Lovric, 1987: 339). It is not surprising that the Balinese are still afraid to utter the name of the King of Cholera.

Where have all the blacksmiths gone?

No name was given on my 1927 Dutch map for the largest island used by judges of the Kerta Gosa law courts for banishment of criminal upper-castes. Located south from the Klungkung Regency, it was just named Nusa the 'Island' although my map indicated the smaller inhabited island was already called Nusa Lembongonan. In Holt's essay before her expedition began she mentioned the name 'Penida' was then attached to the big Island. Penida meant pamor, the white meteorite metal worked into the blade of a kris (Holt, 1970:67). This magically dangerous secret technique was used in Bali by the underground transformation of fire by the priest blacksmiths (Empu pande), descendants of Javanese artisans from Majapahit times. Several centuries earlier, however, since the Iron Age in Bali, indigenous Balinese blacksmiths (pande wesi) had been forging their plain iron daggers (kris) and the iron keys of unique musical ensembles (selonding). In the secluded village of Tenganan in southeast Bali, these iron instruments were only to be played on certain ritual occasions. They were also forged by the Tenganese blacksmiths for the surrounding ceremonially related villages of Bugbug, Timbrah, Asak and Bungaya.

The historical evidence first mentioned Tenganan, called Tranganan, in 1011 A.D. (Goris, 1965:23). Later, however, five Royal edicts dating from the twelfth century were issued and recorded on bronze plates. They instructed villages owning selonding musical ensembles, forged by the Balinese blacksmiths to pay a special tax confirming their antiquity (Lansing, 1983:124). Several centuries earlier, in 882 A.D., an anonymous Balinese king issued an edict that mentioned the 'Tire god', (hyang api), of the iron smiths. The Fire god (sanghyang api) is referred to again in an edict issued in 896 A.D., in relation to the payment of levies. In sum, it seems the Iron Age of Bali began before the early tenth century by the Buddhist king, Sri Kesari Warmadama [Warmadewa?] of the Selunding [Selonding?] dynasty discussed earlier, and was carried on by his royal descendants who continued with traditional patronage of the Balinese blacksmiths, until the end of the eleventh century. (Goris, 1965:5-6, 9-10).

In the early 20th century, apart from Holt's noteworthy but brief observations on the origin of the largest island's name as 'Penida' mentioned above, which also inspired my visit, more importantly, it was the name of the easternmost north-south path in Tenganan, called 'Banjar Pande', that aroused my intense curiosity and interest. Here, I had read, in the 1930s and still today, there was only one indentured resident practicing blacksmith, from another village, living in Banjar Pande (Korn, 1960:313). Since ancient times, the only way to become a blacksmith was to be born into the indigenous clan of iron smiths (pande wesi). A son had to be initiated by his father and taught the mystical, magical rituals associated with the dangerous power of smelting the iron in underground fire. This process enabled the forging techniques for the blacksmiths to practice their craft.

In Tenganan village in the 1920s, the three named Banjar were legal communities that had their own constitution and included all the married adult male inhabitants. The three broad wide avenues of communal areas ran south to north up steep stone-ramped and terraced inclines. The compact walled village was approximately five hundred meters long by two hundred and fifty meters wide and seemed to be built to a preconceived plan. The separate family compounds faced onto the avenues and had joined roofs of thatched plaited branches of coconut palms. The three Banjar were and are called Kauh (west), Tengah (centre) and Pande to the east, near the graveyards (sema) [setra?], The centre Banjar was also subdivided into northern and southern sections by east-west lanes. Also, each of the three central Banjar had its own separate meeting pavilions (Korn, 1960:304). The married men belonged by birth to the banjar of their fathers. All the main public pavilions were arranged down the central spine of the broad communal avenues, one behind the other. All the pavilions and structures had roofs made of black coconut fibre (ijuk). From a long Assembly pavilion inside the south entrance, to the main village bathing place in the northwest end, were located a large square cockfighting pit, small temples and shrines. The ridge of the rice granaries, with their black ijuk roofs were all orientated east-west. The other pavilion roof ridges ran north-south. There was a narrow deep stone water conduit running down through the middle and under the central row of structures (Kertonegoro, 1986: Diagrams, Ir. I Nengah Sadri).

The legal position of men who had fulfilled all the regulations and requirements and committed no infringements of village laws (desa adat), were ranked by precedence of age, their clan lineage and marital status in order to belong as members of the Assembly Pavilion (Bale Agung). In Tenganan, the lineages were divided into two groups: either a right (tengan) or left (kiwa) flank. It is interesting to note that the division into right and left halves is found in most ancient villages in Bali. In some of the central mountain and Lake Batur villages studied in my earlier 1980s research, I found some settlements were also orientated towards east and west directions. In Tenganan, the first of the two groups that were divided into the right (tengen) and left (kiwa) sides corresponded to the highest-ranked priest elders (sanghyang); the second priestly group batuguling were also divided and ranked before the other two groups of recently married men (Korn, 1960:330).

What was most interesting to me however, was the fourth-ranked group of clans on Korn's list. He described both pande clans as 'full-fledged citizenry' of Tenganan. The blacksmiths were placed on the right (tengan) side and the goldsmiths (pande mas) on the left (kiwa) side (Korn, 1960:330). But what Korn did not know was that both pande clans were facing in the opposite direction to the priest elders and married men. This arrangement was related to Balinese cosmogony, later described as a 'lateral inversion' not known to Korn.

The inverted arrangement was found in Assembly pavilions of many archaic villages in the central mountains and was related to a moiety division of married men, called sibuk (Reuter, 2002b:76, 190)

These pande clans were historically descended from eleventh-century inhabitants of the village founders, as both clans had their own shrines where the ten origin lineages placed offerings on a platform of stone under the large tree in a courtyard outside the southern entrance gate called the Pura Batan (Kertonegoro, 1986:201). From the 1930s, there were no longer any goldsmiths living in the village since they recalled the earlier representatives of their clan had moved to Bratan in the northwest central mountains. Their long-standing claims of kinship were confirmed by the group's decision to join them and move to Buleleng district.

More importantly, there were apparently still blacksmiths living in Banjar Pande in the 1930s, but they no longer practiced their ancient and magical craft of forging iron (Korn, 1960-332). Did the judges of the village legal law court (bale Kengan) revoke all their rights and privileges as blacksmiths?

The only data specifically written about Balinese blacksmiths in the literature and translated into English that I am aware of was collected before 1928 and first published in 1929 called 'The Position of the Blacksmiths' (Goris, 1960:290-299). This brief outline was published together with an Appendix: 'Précis of a Lontar used by the Blacksmiths' (p. 298-299). In the first paragraph of the main text, it was stated that only a general historical survey of the blacksmiths as a group would be undertaken. Although the blacksmith clan had "recently been in the news again", Goris intriguingly decided to leave "the special nature of the present difficulties completely out of consideration here" (Goris, 1960:291). Further comments may be appropriate at this point. The blacksmith had always been considered by the Balinese to be magically dangerous people. Over the course of the centuries, until at least the 1400s, this group was never without a vivid awareness that they had older rights and privileges than the Javanese priest blacksmith invaders, including all their claimed upper caste (triwangsa) descendants.

The Balinese were also considered the most influential of all blacksmith clans more so than the Javanese priest blacksmiths as mentioned above. They came to Bali at least six centuries later than the beginning of the Balinese Iron Age. The historical importance however, of the dangerous and highly magically-charged Javanese daggers (kris), with wavy blades sometimes forged like a serpent, gave the priest artisan a status that seemed to be outside the social dictates of commoners and high castes. They maintained a position of privilege by keeping their unique metal technique of pamor a secret. On the other hand, the Javanese had become, often through intermarriage with local gentry, an integral part of many communities interspersed throughout the Regencies of palace-centred villages.

The challenge for the Balinese blacksmiths to maintain their special position as a group in society, and to preserve their unity in response to the arrival of the Majaphit blacksmiths, they decided to codify their ancient oral ritual knowledge and practice before the Gelgel period, by recording them onto a palm-leaf manuscript (lontar). Following the accepted structure of Brahmana priest's incantations (mantra), it began with an account of the creation of the world. But their manuscripts deviated from the usual Hindu cosmogony, as the most significant aspect of the text was the central place of Brahma, the god of Fire. The major god of the blacksmith clan also corresponded with the oral traditions from Tenganan (Goris, 1960:294).

According to Goris, the blacksmiths codified mystical formulas in the lontar that were mere imitations of the Brahman texts, as the combination of letters cannot be pronounced and had no lexical significance; "it is neither indigenous or Hindu". Perhaps the blacksmiths had demonstrated literary means to try and prove that they too were of divine origin and thus avoided being grouped as ordinary commoners (Goris, 1960:295-296).

It is also understandable considering their particular ancient historical events spanning over a period of more than a thousand years of smelting iron in the white heat of underground furnaces. Balinese blacksmiths had probably forgotten they were, and still are today, symbolically considered to be the priests of the underworld (Eliade, 1962:65-70).

Although Goris was forthright and stated he had no wish to discuss the contentious events concerning the blacksmiths in the late 1920s, I was mystified by the many subterfuges used by Korn to avoid discussing this matter. Most strikingly, he never once mentioned the blacksmiths' role in forging the ancient iron keys of selonding ensembles owned by the three boys clubs (temu teruna) of unmarried young men: Kelod (south), Tengah (centre) and Kaja (north). They were stored in the pavilions of the boy's clubs located in the relevant positions in the central row of structures down the wide avenues in Tenganan. A set of selonding ensembles were occasionally rented out to the priest elders for special ritual occasions held in the Assembly pavilion. The early indigenous reference to the spatial concepts 'Kaja-Kelod' occurred in relation to the boys clubs. Furthermore, recent and rare Calcutta DNA evidence of some present-day inhabitants (Ramseyer, 1991:134), suggests these spatial concepts came directly to Tenganan from Orissa, South India.

Korn's negative attitude towards the blacksmiths was difficult to understand, as he must have known why, when and to where their clan was banished. The attempted explanations by Korn of 'criminal inhabitants' and 'immigrant residents' in fact contradicted his 1920s list of 'legal lineages', confirming they lived in Banjar Pande (Korn, 1960:330-332). Nevertheless, none of the above explains or even gives a clue to the whereabouts or fate of the blacksmith clan of Tenganan.

Moreover, in a Google entry on Selonding by Korn it was most extraordinary that he did not mention Tenganan or the blacksmiths who forged the ancient iron ensembles. On the contrary, he erroneously attributed the village of Bungaya as having the first and most sacred iron selonding ensemble! I have tried to understand this misleading article and why Korn would choose to negate the blacksmiths of Tenganan and their ancient craft.

The following attempted explanation for such a negative attitude is entirely speculative. The Iron Age and the smelting of iron was generally regarded sinister, as in many myths human sacrifice is required. Killed by the white heat of furnaces men were burnt alive, reduced to ashes. In some myths, their wives operated the bellows. Other versions also inspired hatred of iron smiths and their work. In the 1930s, accounts of metallurgy myths and human sacrifice were published in Leiden (Eliade, 1962:65-70). Could it be that the Dutch Protestant Reformist Korn had read these publications? This would possibly account for his inexplicable attitude towards the Balinese blacksmiths of Banjar Pande, Tenganan.

Finally, on a more positive note, in the early 1940s, Korn reported that he visited the island of Nusa Penida. Induced by fears of famine, a regular phenomenon in the past, was Korn concerned for the welfare of the Balinese blacksmith clan banished there, who had never had any previous farming experience? In fact he made no reference to them at all (Korn, 1944:97-109).


Image left: Nusa Penida map (p.20)

Adventures in Nusa Penida: 1990

Nusa Lembongan

The time had arrived more than half a century after C. Holt to begin a second 'short exploration trip' to Nusa Penida. It was a perfect cloudless day in mid-July 1990 and I had decided to leave early that morning by public ferry from Sanur to Nusa Lembongan, to visit a sculptor friend who had been living there for the past month. The passengers waded through the shallow waters holding their possessions above their heads and scrambled onto the ferry: a happy crowd. The beautiful crossing only took two hours, as the water was clear and smooth like glass. We arrived at Nusa Lembongan and disembarked on the beach at Jungutbatu. This area is famous amongst surfers for its rolling waves and there were several small bungalows on the beach for rental. I soon found my friend Erika and her son, and we shared a lunch of delicious local fish cooked over hot coals of coconut husks by her helper. The timing of my arrival was perfect, as this afternoon Erika had to go to a house yard in the village of Jungutbatu, to open the Japanese raku kiln she had built around her sculpture of a life-sized seated Buddha. Erika said the wood to fire the kiln came from a large abandoned sailing boat (prahu) originally bought to take surfers out to the best waves. The clay for the statue came from the big Island Penida. At first she was very disappointed as the body was shattered. Miraculously however, the Buddha head was intact. She remembers I told her not to worry, that one day archaeologists would find the head and shattered fragments and speculate that Lembongan was once a Buddhist island!

The sparse vegetation of low thorny bushes, stunted trees and cactus growing on the barren dry landscape surrounding the village of Jungutbatu reminded me of the arid limestone Bukit in South Bali. The construction of the dwellings and their enclosures of low walls were all built with a regular, jagged sea coral. In the house yards large quantities of oblong, flat white strips of sweet yams (ketéla), hung on lines drying in the sun. Later, when steamed this staple food was a main substitute for rice, also for the inhabitants of Nusa Penida. Other main crops on both islands were maize (jagung), mung beans and tobacco which all grow well where fresh water is scarce. Also, many yards were filled with the stench of drying fish, their main source of protein. To cross the island we climbed up white steps like terraces hewn into the slope of the barren hill at the southern end of the village, little changed since Holt's description (Belo, 1970:69). Outside Jungutbatu we came to a temple of the death- goddess Durga, a consort of Siva, the Pura next to a graveyard (sema).

It only took about forty-five minutes to walk across the whole island of Nusa Lembongan. On the highest ridge before descending to the south coast, magnificently sited, was a temple of the founding ancestors, (Pura Puseh) of the village Lembongan, capital of the island.

Standing at its tall entrance gate we could see spectacular views of Bali to the north and Nusa Penida to the south. The crown-shaped top of the temple entrance as well as several humorous stone sculptures in the niches of the gate were stylistically reminiscent of those on the entrance gate of the former palace in Klungkung before it was destroyed by the Dutch.

We decided not to go into Lembongan village, as early the next day Erika was returning to Sayan, Bali and I was going to Nusa Penida. Next morning the small outboard motor boat I had hired though Pak Nyoman arrived with his brother to pick me up on the fine coral sand beach of Jungutbatu for the journey to the big Island. Again, it was a perfect day with no wind, so the crossing only took one hour.

Nusa Penida

In 1990 there were about 40,000 inhabitants living on Nusa Penida. Small villages, some with a banjar, had a population of between 200 and 500; larger ones, up to 2000 or more. It had been claimed that the island was settled in the 16th century by 'criminals' banished there from the Klungkung Kingdom and that their punishment included clearing the virgin forests (Sideman, 1980; Giambelli, 1995). This erroneous claim coincided with the era when Javanese Majapahit invaders, or immigrants (depending on one's point of view), established a grand palace and temples, the court having moved there from Gelgel. As the newcomers took over all the wet rice fields, irrigated for more than 700 years. The historical evidence indicated, in a Klungkung Royal edict of 1072 A.D., the irrigation society (subak) crosscut 18 village boundaries (kasubakan), which also benefited from water allocation (Lansing,, 2009).

It therefore seemed reasonable to assume that independent Balinese rice farmers did not want to become mere sharecroppers or 'feudal slaves' of the new King. As the offshore islands were part of the Klungkung Regency, perhaps some of the farmer's patrilineal kin left their villages to establish a banjar 'offshoot' in already existing archaic settlements on the island. What we do know is that in 1990 many of the villages on the island had incorporated banjar into the village social structure. Further architectural evidence indicated that archaic settlements may have existed much earlier than historical events of the 1500s. Holt's description in the 1930s of a large, stone offering platform, about two to four meters wide by three to five meters long, was a typical structure in Nusa Penida temples such as Batu Medahu (Holt, 1970:75). Rather than located inside the courtyard of a walled temple, this large structure seemed to be part of a later sixteenth-century banjar addition of an open, oblong court overhung by an ancient banyan tree, in an existing archaic settlement.

This description is reminiscent of the large stone platform just outside the southern entrance gate, also overhung by an ancient tree, to the walled village of Tenganan, East Bali. Here, it was also called a temple where offerings were placed by descendants of the founding lineages for their deified ancestors. The connection to Tenganan is not so implausible. As previously noted in an eleventh-century legend from Tenganan, their first female ancestor was also called Keling. As well as the name for 'Indian trader', keling is also the name of the archaic textiles unique to Nusa Penida.

An intensive analysis of the layout of some house yards and compounds (banjaran) based on my photos and rough fieldwork sketches have identified three different types of dwellings to be described below in relation to each village that I visited. Further comparisons have been made with our 1990 aerial photos of thirty three settlement patterns as well as more recent Google images from 2011 of the same villages. This disparate data obviously reveals variations. However, a clear conceptual arrangement of compounds can be discerned; certainly not 'random' layouts as had been suggested (Giambelli, personal communication). The main access into most villages, coastal and plateau, was orientated north to south. The small walking lanes separating the surrounding boundary walls of house yards or compounds were more or less orientated towards an east-west axis. The village dwellings were usually built following the natural curves of the hilltop ridges. Many temples, viewed from the helicopter, seemed to be isolated in the landscape, outside of the settlements.

The most distinctive feature of Nusa Penida were the astonishing sculptured man-made dry stone walls that formed the flat hillside gardens surrounding the settlements, virtually covering the whole island. Most people walked every day to and from their dwellings to their garden plots. The subsistence farmers were dependent on rain-fed agriculture. They planted highly diversified gardens to try and avert hunger and the occurrence of famine. The major crops planted were cassava, yams, maize, mung beans, rice and tobacco as well as a wide variety of fruit trees, including bananas, coconut palms and also bamboo. Fresh drinking water was not as scarce as the experience of the 1930s Holt expedition. Rainwater is now collected and stored in huge tanks and collected from roofs for the dry season. On the southern limestone cliffs of Salak more than two hundred meters high, a spectacular bamboo stairway was constructed in the 1970s to collect fresh water from natural springs just above sea level.

Everything came to Nusa Penida by large boats from Bali, including cattle, motorbikes and even bulldozers. The many cows bred in the highlands were transported to Bali to be slaughtered in Denpasar. Coastal people had large coconut groves and cashew nut plantations. They also lived by fishing, and more recently, by cultivating seaweed. Approaching the port of Toya Pakeh we could see recent seaweed farms, similar to the vast ones that had been established earlier between the smaller islands of Lembongan and Ceningan. Two types of seaweed were cultivated, harvested and dried onshore for local consumption before being exported to Hong Kong for use in the cosmetic industry.

We found that most maps of Nusa Penida were very inaccurate as many of the roads marked were only walking tracks; not even a motorbike could negotiate them. The newly paved roads were unmarked so it was very frustrating trying to draw them more accurately on my maps. Each day we set out from Toya Pakeh to different villages. For example, there was a junction at Sakti, which turns west to Sebunibus, where some Balinese blacksmiths had settled in the 1930s. There was another junction east to the hill village of Klumpu. From Klumpu one can go south to Batumadeg on a motorbike road, and east via Batu Kandik to Tanglad or south to Sebuluh and the nearby famous waterfall. The views were very spectacular and dramatic from Tanglad, especially towards the east coast, looking over a lush valley, then across very windswept and barren stone terraces. East from Tanglad to the coast, down the cliff was the small village of Pelilit where the dancers live. North of Tanglad was the road to Pejukutan, which had breathtaking hairpin bends and very steep inclines. Turning back toward the east coast one comes to the village of Sewana and the nearby famous temple Batu Medahu. The following section will describe these villages in more detail.

Toya Pakeh

The port of Toya Pakeh was a busy small Muslim-Balinese village, the only one on the island, with a population of about three hundred. There was a small homestay (losman) where I could rent a room from the family of Pak Marzuki, the head of the village, and his son, Nasir, who was to be my driver. They were very polite and friendly people. After negotiating the costs for accommodation, food, drinks and transport; a minibus or motorbike, we decided to set out for Sakti, a village to the south, via, Sebunibus. Living there was an Italian PhD research student from the Australian National University.


From Toya Pakeh we entered the village of Sakti from the north axis road. Sakti also had a voluminous freshwater spring, a rarity on this dry and barren island as most settlements only had wells with brackish water unsuitable for drinking. As in most villages, there was an open, oblong central court on the east side, overhung by a large banyan (waringan) tree.

Underneath it was an origin shrine and often a large flat stone which was believed to have been used as 'seats' for the temporary visit of deified ancestors as well as for offerings associated with the five origin lineages. A pavilion (bale banjar) faced the banyan tree at the north end of the oblong court. It also seemed to be the unmarried boys and girls club house: Teruna-Teruni. Opposite the court on the west side was an elementary school. In 1990 there were no secondary schools in Nusa Penida and no hospitals.

Parallel rows of walled residential houseyards (banjaran) were arranged around the central court with narrow east-west walking lanes separating the boundary walls. The dwellings were made of stacked stones similar to the terraced walls of gardens; some had reinforced brick corners. The roofs were mostly thatched with coconut palm fronds and some had terracotta tiles. Dried food was stored on horizontal platforms in the roof. Small doors and windows were enclosed by woven bamboo screens; the archaic style of architecture may best be described as original (kuna) Balinese. In most villages, as in Sakti, endogamous marriages were reflected in the arrangement of dwellings in a houseyard. In an 'ideal' union, a man married his second, patrilineal, parallel cousin who worshiped at the same ancestral shrine (sanggah kemulan) in the houseyard. It was elevated, or uphill, in the centre at one end, in between two rows of dwellings occupied by brothers or brothers-in-law and their families. They slept with their heads toward the ancestral shrine. The hearth (kuren) was placed at the opposite end, near the entrance to the walled dwellings. This unique arrangement resulted in the houseyards being reversed 'mirror images' of one another.

A death temple (Pura Dalem) was located about one kilometer south of Sakti village and beyond was a graveyard, (sema) (photos 58-73). The temple had two courts and was entered from the south end up a flight of steps to the split gate (candi bentar) entrance. It was beautifully sited on a hill with views to the north. Two magnificent trees overhung the temple walls. The one on the east side was inside the first court; on the west side the tree was outside the walls of the second court. Guardian statues stood on either side of the entrance steps leading into the inner court (jeroan) in which there were five shrines for the origin lineages as well as a tall one for the sun god (Surya).

The village temple priests (pemangku) were commoners; there were no high castes in Sakti, the whole population were commoners (japa) There was another class of priest (sengguhu) who made ground offerings (mecaru) to placate demons (bata kala) under the earth at cross roads and ravines. Between 1328-1339 A.D. four Sengguhu bronze zodiac chalices were found in Bali, the earliest one from Krumitan (Goris, 52). A priest healer (balian) attended those in ill health or had broken bones. The priest of the forest and tree spirits who occupied the garden plots (jero dukuh sakti) was considered most lowly as he lived in a hut in his garden and did not wear white clothes, as the other village priests, when performing rituals.


On the way back, about four kilometres to the east we entered the settlement of Sebunibus from the southern end of the main access road. The first pavilion we came to on the eastern side of the road housed a Ferris wheel (bale Ayunan). Imagine my surprise and excitement when our self-appointed guide, Pak Wayan Muji, told me this was the village where the Pande clan lived: the Balinese blacksmiths (pande wesi) banished from Tenganan sixty years ago! The Ferris wheels or swings, unlike the ones in Tenganan, were similar in construction and style to those in Bali found in villages on the boundary road to Sideman.

As in Sakti, there was an oblong court in the middle of the village with a banyan tree overhanging a shrine at the north end. Also situated there was the large pavilion (bale banjar). The walled courtyards for the blacksmith's dwellings contained several structures. The kitchens were situated in the south, the sleeping pavilions in the north and the household shrines in the northeast corner. In the centre was a four-post storage barn (bale jinjing) the posts standing on stones. Dried food was stored in the upper thatched curved roof structure, which had small doors and a window at one end. Underneath was a raised wooden platform that was here used for lifecycle rites such as marriage ceremonies. These courtyards were located along the village east-west axis. There was also a temple at the most northern location (Pura Panataran) Inside the temple was a Balinese pande making small demonic figurines out of cement. I had planned to revisit this village to obtain more information, but unfortunately it did not eventuate.


Sebunibus to Batumadeg could only be approached on a motorbike due to the very narrow road. This large archaic village had walled single dwellings in houseyards with kitchen-sleeping structures on either side of the entrance, and a central elevated shrine in the middle at one end. Like Sakti, the houseyards were separated by narrow lanes located on an east-west axis and were 'mirror images' of one another. The village also had a bamboo ensemble (gong anklung) for the boys and girls clubs (teruna/teruni daha) and a square cockfighting pit, (bale wantilan) under repair. Batumadeg had several banjar attached to it probably since the 1500s. For example, Bj. Kerranon and Bj. Kawan both had the typical central oblong court, large banyan tree overhanging a shrine and a low, long platform with a pavilion at the north end. They both also had Ferris wheel pavilions at the south end of the banjar.

Batumadeg had many temples: the origin temple (Pura Puseh) to the north, and the death temple (Pura Dalem) to the south; west of the wantilan (Pura Paibon). There was a large clan temple (Pasek Kayu Selem) in Bj. Kawan with ten and twelve-post square pavilions. Also on a hill outside the village was another temple (Pura Dusun). After the Dutch conquest of Bali in the early twentieth century, dusun was the name given to arbitrary boundaries drawn around groups of villages for more convenient administration. This probably accounts for the name of this temple.


The next village that I went to was Klumpu, the highest in the central plateau of the island. At the north entrance of the village was a tall split drum tower (kul-kul). The two split drums were wrapped in black and white checked cloth (poleng). This was the only one I saw in the villages we visited [Roode Kruis op expeditie: so location of village could be Klumpu?]. In the middle was a similar central arrangement of an open oblong court with a shrine under a large banyan tree. There was an origin temple (Pura Puseh) and on the south side of the village there was a death temple (Pura Dalem) and graveyard (sema). Next to this temple was a large square traditional cock fighting pit (bale wantilan), with three steps down to the level for ritual cockfights. Some men from the village were constructing a tall tower for a cremation (ngaben) to be held in four days time. This was not a usual event in archaic villages where the dead were buried in a graveyard. I know that cremation was introduced to the island after the mid-1700s when uppercastes were banished there by judges of the Kerta Gosa law court.

The elementary school, as in all the villages, was located on the west side of a central court, behind the main north-south axis. As in Sakti, the dwellings were walled houseyards situated along the narrow east-west lanes and were also reverse mirror images of one another. The village of Klumpu had rather complex orientation, as Mount Agung in Bali could be seen to the south of the death temple (Pura Dalem).


Sebuluh is famous for a large waterfall about four km from this ancient village. The unusual walled single-family dwellings were to my knowledge unique. They had a wooden platform bed orientated to the north for birthing and death rites and a fire hearth (kuren) in the south. In the middle of the dwelling was a clay water pot (jun). There was a veranda extension to the dwelling with another enclosed sleeping platform at the northern end. The structure was a pile house with all the posts standing on stones. Central oblong courts had also been added to a banjar on the west (bj. Kawan) and east (bj. Kanging) sides of the village, with a banyan tree, shrine, large flat offering stone and pavilion at the north end. The origin temple (Pura Puseh) in the village had a very tall unique temple gate with three thatched roofs, two lower ones on either side of the very tall entrance gates (galung). On a hill outside the village called Bukit Buluh there was also a temple with another unique tall gate constructed out of cut stone blocks with three solid stone roofs (also galung). The style of these magnificent gates seemed to be unique to Nusa Penida. Perhaps they were also to be found centuries ago on mainland Bali before the Javanese conquest?


Tanglad, one of the largest and most important villages on the island had a population of more than two thousand. Because of its huge underground fresh water source stored in a large tank, this village had always been a major place for weaving the unique keling textile, previously described, and worn by all the women on the island. To approach the village, which lies southeast of Batumadeg one must pass through the small village of Batu Kandik. With an approximate population of two hundred it had only two parallel lanes of houseyards. It also had, however, the open oblong court overhung by a banyan tree and shrine underneath with a primary school on the western side of the north-south axis.

We arrived at Tanglad by motorbike along the ridge of the large village, which was built on three levels. The people were very friendly and hospitable and invited us into their large courtyard compounds. They said there were only five elderly weavers left in the village, who could still weave their indigenous textile. Cotton was no longer cultivated and aniline dyes had replaced vegetable dyestuffs. I was shown only one piece with hand-spun cotton stripes of red, yellow and white. The other keling had yellow and red checks and one had a green checked plaid.

In the centre of the archaic village of Tanglad was a large temple (Pura Balai Banjar). Inside the courtyard were several pavilions including two that had ten posts, a large square structure with twelve posts and a new cement building in the south-east corner. The north and south entrance gates to this temple were constructed in the unique old Nusa Penida style but they were also slightly different from one another. The village also had unmarried boys and girls clubs (sekeh teruna/teruni). The entrance to the spacious single courtyard walled dwellings (pekarangan) had sleeping pavilions orientated to the north, which contained the family heirlooms (warisan) on a high shelf above the sleeping platforms. The kitchens were in the south. In the northeast corner were the ancestral shrines (sanggah tawan). In the centre of these large courtyards was the elevated four-post storage barn (jinjing). Dry foods were stored on platforms in the rafters behind a pair of small doors in the curved thatched roof. At the time I was there, most of the courtyards had bamboo mats spread on the ground with a crop of mung beans drying in the sun before being stored in the barn. Underneath, there was an elevated wooden platform specifically for weaving and later used for other life-cycle rituals. This structure was very reminiscent of the ninth-century Borobudur stone-relief sculpture of a storage barn with similar elements found on the famous Buddhist monument in central Java.

In the mid 18th-century many members of the weisa caste from the palace in Krambitan, west Bali, were banished to Nusa Penida by Kerta Gosa judges for caste infringements. The high caste noble women introduced the weaving of their renowned cepuk textiles similar to the one I had bought in the Denpasar markets in 1972, described in the textile section above, which had inspired me to visit Nusa Penida, and especially Tanglad. The large quantities of fresh water stored in the tank at Tanglad were ideal for natural dyes and mordents. I was not able to find any of the yellow handspun cloths I had also previously bought in the market, said to come from the island.

In 1990 very few old weavers were no longer able to remember the classic cepuk designs. New motifs had been introduced, such as oddly-proportioned Arjuna figures and elephants with long spindly legs designed to attract a market in Bali. (Nabholz, 1991: 96).

The textile dealer who brought these new cloths to the Denpasar markets, called Pak Sudiana, lived in a small banjar of Tanglad called Timbul. He told me he did not have much success in Bali selling any of the cepuk cloths, which had the new motifs as they seemed meaningless to mainland Balinese.

Timbul had a temple with two ten-post pavilions facing one another across a large open court. The houseyards on the west-east axis were facing the same way as the temple with an ancestor shrine (sanggah kemulan). Some had one shrine and others had four or five. The dealer took me to visit houseyards in Timbul where women had many beautiful antique textiles for sale from Java. Some I bought were absolute bargains compared to prices paid in the Yogyakarta markets.


From Tanglad we rode to the east coast, and then had to walk down a steep path to the ancient village of Pelilit where the dancers lived. Outside the village in front of the wide entrance gate, which had a thatched roof, there was a large open court where twelve Baris Jangkang dancers performed a warrior-drill dance. Unfortunately I had forgotten my camera so I have included an old photograph taken in the 1930s during the Holt expedition (Belo, 1970; plate XXIII). However, I was able to photograph the Baris dancers from Pelilit a week later during their performance in the great festival at the temple (Pura Dalem) in Ped.


From Tanglad we rode to Sewana via the mountain village of Pejukatan. The narrow road became very steep with many hairpin bends as it dropped north near the east coast, to the village of Sewana. The limestone compounds of Pejutakan had low stone walls between the courtyards. Previously, nearly every house in all the villages we visited had a blackstrap loom (cagcag) or two for the women to weave keling, their traditional multicoloured striped clothes. They also wove shorter black hip cloths worn by men as well as women. On a hill outside Pejukatan village was a temple with some random stones laid on a large flat platform at the base of a shrine under an old tree. The 1930s Holt expedition recorded that most temples in Nusa Penida had these 'natural stones with unnatural shapes' (Belo, 1970; 78).

Karangsari Cave

Before reaching Sewana we passed some fine cows on the ridge. Then we rode west to visit the famous vast cave Goa Karangsari. We climbed down through the cave entrance descending into lower chambers until we came to the bottom of the cave, where an expanse of water had been blocked off by a low cement wall, which had been constructed since the 1930s. The expanse of water was believed by the local people to be the bathing place of the heavenly nymphs (dedari). Compared to the 'cultural' man-made constructions in the temples, the underworld lake was the only bathing place. Legend has it that this cave was connected by a tunnel to the Bat cave (Goa Lawah) in east Bali where a great mysterious serpent (naga) lived feeding on the swarming bats. As it was late in the afternoon we decided to go back to Toya Pakeh for the night.

Architecture as a non-verbal form of communication (p.275)

Aerial photos of Nusa Penida settlements [not shown here] were taken by Rio and myself in 1990 before my short expedition.

It is interesting to note, that after visiting many of the villages in the aerial photographs I still could not identify any of the settlements from the air. So I was not expecting any of the inhabitants to be able to identify their villages either. This is very difficult to do even if one is familiar with the villages on the ground.

Also in 1990, Rio and I made three other one-hour helicopter flights to take aerial photographs of Bali Aga villages on the mainland. One group was over the central mountain area surrounding Lake Batur across to Belantih and nearby Selulung in the west. The second group we photographed were the villages along the northeast coast of Bali. The final group we photographed were the villages in east Bali from Tenganan and related villages to Bungaya as well as Seraya to the far east.

Rio and I, being very familiar with all these villages, it was relatively easy for us to identify them from our photographs. However, I discovered that many people found it very to read plans and maps.

Nevertheless, I was able to develop a visual typology that enabled me to analyse and classify the different types of settlement patterns in the photographs but I was not able to analyse the aerial images of Nusa Penida.

Architecture & general glossary (combined tables, p.268-271)

aben, ngaben cremation rites
adat custom; customary law
adegan column post
agung great, large
ajeng pura temple forecourt
alang-alang Imperata cyclindrica, a grass, usually found covering areas where forest has beenrepeatedly burned
aling-aling screen half wall, often inside temple gates
amok, amuk, ngamuk uncontrolled movement and actions
anak person, human being; child
Anak Agung title applied to male members of the ksatriya caste
anak alit, anak cenik lit. little human, i.e., child
anak jaba lit. person outside (the triwangsa or caste system), i.e., commoner
anak luh woman
anak muani man
angklung bamboo instrumental ensemble
angkul-angkul simple form of Balinese gate
apit-apit purlins, which tie roof rafters together
arak palm wine, often used as libation in rituals
arca votive statue; ornamental (usually golden) image; temporary vessel for visiting deities
ari-ari human placenta
asegan temporary architectural construction usually made of bamboo
atma soul, spirit
awig-awig village regulations
ayu lit. beautiful; also used as female title
babad genealogical chronicle, history
bade funeral bier
bajangan a graveyard for infants
bale ceremonial pavilion
bale pillared, roofed structure found within houseyards and temple complexes
bale agung ceremonial assembly pavilion, audience hall of the gods or priest elders
bale dangin open pavilion situated in eastern position in compound.
bale kaja pavilion situated in northern position in compound
balian practitioner of medicine and magic
banjar residential unit within a village; hamlet
banten type of offering
barong term usually used to refer to certain types of masks; also a creature from medical mythology
Bhatara-Bhatari male and female deities; deified ancestors; also titles
Calon Arang name of a widow-witch, an historical text and an exorcistic dance-drama
canang small simple flower and fine leaf offering
cantilever horizontal projection such as step, balcony, beam or canopy
caru, pacaruan ground offerings from a few grains of rice to large mammals for powerful unmanifest powers
cecak small lizard-like creature, gecko
cella inner room containing the statue of a deity
Cokorda ksatriya caste title
dadap species of tree held to have magical significance
dalang type of priest able to enact wayang and perform exorcisms
dalem lit. deep or within, often used in the tile of a paramount ruler and in the name of temple
desa village
Dewa-Dewi class of supernaturals; also used as a title for members of the ksatriya caste
dolmen descriptive term for megalithic chamber. Examples of the method of joinery: mortise-and-tenon joints and lapped joints
eka desa rudra bhuta-yadnya theoretically held every 100 years
Galungan bhuta-yadnya lasting 10 days occurring every 210 days
gamelan generic name for music and orchestra usually consisting of percussion instruments
geria, geriya, griya residence of a brahmana
gering, gring disease, illness
gunung mentor, wise person
Gusti title of wesya caste
Ida honorific title usually applied to deities and members of the brahmana caste
Ida Bagus title used by male members of the brahmana caste
ider-ider painted cloth frieze
jaba lit. outside; commoners
jero lit. inside; also used as a tile to indicate a special relationship with mystical powers; also applied to the residence of non-ruling members of the ksatriya and wesya castes
jero dukuh sakti In Nusa Penida, a specialist priest who makes offerings to the spirits of the trees and plants in the terraces gardens
jeroan inner court of a temple
jinjing small four-post rice storage barn with raised open platform underneath thatched roof
kahyangan tiga three-village temples, usually named puseh (navel or origin), bale agung (community meeting place) and dalem (usually rendered 'death temple')
kajeng-kliwon conjunction of the fifth day of the 5-day week and the third day of the 3-day week: a rarainan
kala motif found over temple doorways and niches for statuary in Bali; time; demonic power
karya ritual task or action; word not traditionally used for secular duties
kebon closed cane basket used for carrying offerings and ritual objects
kepeng lead or bronze Chinese coins with square hole in the middle, generally used in a ritual context
king post post standing on a tier or collar-beam, rising to the apex of the roof where it supports a ridge-piece
kris ceremonial dagger
kubu simple hut or dwelling built on the terraced garden in Nusa Penida; in mainland Bali, near a village
lawah ritual food concocted from finely-shredded raw pig meat, onions, coconut and chili bound together with fresh pig blood
leyak, leak witch-sorcerer
lingga phallic symbol representing Siva, often found in Hindu temples with its female counterpart yoni
lontar, rontal palm-leaf manuscripts
lumbung rice storage barn
makara mythical beast with an elephant's trunk, a lion's mane, a parrot's beak and a fish's tail
mala negative forces (not evil)
mandala mystical symbols in the form of concentric circles; from the centre to the periphery
mangku abbreviated from the used to address pamangku and balian
mantra whispered, spoken or written mystical formula
marae designates a public place reserved for a social and religious activities
maya illusion; powers of self-transformation
megalithic pertaining to monuments constructed primarily of large stones; associated with prehistoric societies
menhir type of megalithic construction, a tall monolith
meru mountain abode of the gods at the center of the universe
modre powerful syllables used in magic rites
moksa release from the cycle of reincarnation; applied to brahmana, ksatriya and wesya castes
mpu title applied to leaned powerful priests
Ngurah title; guardian, protector
nini grandmother; title applied to Durga
niskala invisible world
padanda high priest of the brahmana caste
pagoda symbolic Buddhist multi-storied structure with multiple roofs of black coconut fibre
pakarangan house yard or compound; usually refers to the whole complex
palinggih altar; seat of deity
pamangku temple priest
pangiwa magic of the 'left hand path'
paon Balinese kitchen
penjor bamboo pole adorned with offerings placed outside houseyards and temples during ritual periods such as galungan
poleng black and white checked cloth with magical properties
porch roofed structure, to protect the entrance from the elements
pura temple
pura dalem death temple; associated with the destructive aspect of Siva
pura desa village temple, or assembly pavilion
pura panataran regional temple for the veneration of ancestors of ruling raja
pura puseh navel or origin temple
puri residence of ruling members of ksatriya or wesya castes
purnama full moon
rafter roof timber sloping up from the wall plate to  the ridge
raja ruler, authority, temporal power
rangda lit. widow; often used as a generic term to refer to masks associated with the Calon Arang legend
ridge pole board or plank at the apex of a roof against the sides of which the upper ends of the rafters abut
rumah walled houseyard compound, a dwelling
socle short plinth used to support a pedestal or sculpture, a household shrine or half wall
stereobate solid mass of masonry serving as a base usually for a wall or a row of columns; the lowest level of a building or pavilion
stud upright timber tie beam; horizontal transverse beam in a roof, connecting the feet of rafters
titi bamboo bridge
titi gonggeng ancient construction in front of north and south temple entrances in Taro, symbolically the three levels of the universe
uma (menten) Balinese sleeping pavilion
wall plate timber laid longitudinally on top of a wall to receive the ends of the rafters
wantilan Balinese cock-fighting pit; stage for dramatic performance (modern version)
yoni female counterpart of lingga, female principle; used to represent consort of Siva

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