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Important Temple on 'Turtle Island'

Serangan is a small island lying just off Bali's southern coast near Sanur. It has an area of only 180 acres and a population of about 2,500, and is known principally for its turtles and its important Sakenan Temple.

Serangan is too dry for wet rice farming, but its residents grow corn, maize, peanuts and beans. Some islanders earn a living making shell trinkets to sell to the tourists who come here in ever increasing numbers. But the trade in another distinctive item is even more crucial to the local economy.

The sea turtles which give Serangan its popular name are not found swimming picture squely under ocean cliffs - here they are caught and sold as food. People in the Denpasar area are fond of turtle meat, especially on festival days. Serangan residents make a living capturing and wholesaling the creatures, also buying them from Muslim fishermen from islands to the east.

The turtles are kept live in bamboo sheds on the sandy beach around Dukuh, the island's main village on the north coast. Here they are fed with fresh leaves and sold to buyers from Denpasar, who will eventually prepare the turtle meat in dishes like sate and lawar, a kind of tartare or raw meat dish.

There is also a turtle-egg hatchery on the island. The most popular edible species is the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), which swims ashore to lay eggs in a shallow pit in the sand before returning to the sea. It is at this moment that villagers catch the turtles effortlessly and in large numbers, just by turning them on their backs. The eggs are considered a great delicacy, and are dug up immediately. Not surprisingly, the green turtle is now threatened with extinction and the World Wide Fund for Nature has consequently appealed to the government to put a stop to the slaughter.

Manis Kuningan festival

The best day to visit Serangan is on the holy day Manis Kuningan in the 210-day Balinese calendar. On this day, the famous Sakenan Temple celebrates the anniversary of its founding by Mpu Kuturan, which according to the Prasasti Belanjong inscription occurred during the 10th century. The Sakenan complex consists of two pura on the north coast of the island just west of Dukuh.

The festival lasts for two days, beginning on the last day of Kuningan wuku or week and ending on the first day of Langkir wuku. The ferry from Suwung, normally serving the odd tourist or a few villagers coming from Serangan to do their marketing, is at this time chock-a-block with thousands of worshippers in all their colorful finery. They queue up on the dike of a canal meandering through the mangroves to board a ferry which takes them straight to the temple.

Inside the first pura there is only a single shrine, in the form of a tugu or obelisk. This is the seat of Cri Cedana or Dewi Sri, the goddess of prosperity and welfare. In the second and larger part of Pura Sakenan there are typical Balinese-style shrines for the prasanak, relatives of Sri who come to visit the temple on its anniversary day.

On arrival, worshippers pray at the shrine of Dewi Sri to ask her for a prosperous year in the fields or in business. But it is obvious that this day is most prosperous for the ferrymen, who earn a lot more money than usual.


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