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The House

As an organic unit, the structure, significance, and function of the home is dictated by the same fundamental principles of belief that rule the village: blood-relation through the worship of the ancestors; rank, indicated by higher and lower levels; and orientation by the cardinal directions, the mountain and the sea, right and left. The Balinese say that a house, like a human being, has a bead - the family shrine; arms - the sleeping-quarters and the, social parlour; a navel - the courtyard; sexual organs - the gate; legs and feet - the kitchen and the granary; and anus - the pit in the backyard where the refuse is disposed of.

Magic rules control -not only the structure but also the building and occupation of the house; only on an auspicious day specified in the religious calendar can they begin to build or occupy a house. On our arrival we were able to secure a new pavilion in the household of Custi only because the date for occupation set by the priest was still three months off. We were strangers immune from the laws of magic harmony that affect only the Balinese and we could live in the house until the propitious day'wlen the priest would come to perform the melasp2sin, the ceremony of inauguration, saying his prayers over each part of the house, burying little ' offerings at strategic points to protect the inmates
from evil influences.


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A Balinese home (kuren) consists of a family or a number of related families living within one enclosure, praying at a common family temple, with one gate and one kitchen. The square plot of land (pekarangan) in which the various units. of the house
stand is entirely surrounded by a wall of whitewashed mud, protected from rain erosion by a crude roofing of thatch. The Balinese feel uneasy when they sleep without a wall, as, for instance, the servants must in the un walled Western-style houses. The gate of a well-to-do family can be an imposing affair of brick and carved stone, but more often it consists of two simple pillars of mud supporting a thick roof of thatch. In front of the gate on either side 'are two small shrines (apit lawang) for offerings, of brick and stone, or merely two little niches excavated in the mud of the gate, while the simplest are made of split bamboo. Directly behind the ' doorway is a small wall (aling aling) that screens off
the interior, and stops evil spirits. In China I had seen similar screens erected for the same purpose and once I asked a Balinese friend how the aling aling kept the devils from entering; be replied, with tongue in his cheek, that unlike humans, they turned
corners with difficulty. The pavilions of the house are distributed around a Well-kept yard of hardened earth free of vegetation except for some flowers and a decorative frangipani or hibiscus tree. But the land between the houses and the wall is planted with coconut trees, breadfruit, bananas, papayas, and so forth, with a corner reserved as a pigsty. This is the garden, the orchard, and the corral of the house and is often so exuberant that the old platitude that in the tropics one has only to reach up to pluck food from the trees almost comes true in Bali.

Curiously, bamboo is not grown within the house. If it sprouts by itself it is allowed to remain, but its growth is discouraged by indirect means. Such is the magic of bamboo that only old people may tackle, the dangerous job of planting it or digging it out, and the first lump of earth dug must be thrown as far away as possible. It is said that if this earth touches someone, he will surely die, and it is only on certain days that work concerning bamboo may be safely undertaken. Yet life in Bal i would have developed along different lines had bamboo not existed on the island. Out of bamboo they make the great majority Of their artifact, houses, beds, bridges, water-pipes, altars, and so forth. It is woven into light movable. screens for walls, sun-bats, and baskets of every conceivable purpose. The, young shoots are excellent to eat, while other part are used, medicine. I was told that the tiny hairs in the wrapping of the new leaves are a slow and undetectable poison like ground glass and tiger's whiskers. Bamboo combines the strength of steex-1 with qualities of the lightest wood. It grows rapidly and without care to enormous size. Social and economic differences affect but little the basic structure of the home. The house of a poor family is called pekarangan, that of a nobleman is a jero and a Brahmana's is a griya, but these differences are mostly in the name, the quality

of the materials employed, the workmanship, and of course in the larger -and richer family temple. The fundamental, plan is based on the same rules for everyone. Only the great palace (puri) of the local ruling. prince is infinitely more elaborate, with a lily pond, compartments for the Radja's brothers and his countless wives, a great temple divided into three courts, and even special sections for the preservation of the corpses and for the seclusion of " impure " palace women during the time of menstruation.

The household of Gedog, our next-door neigbbour in Belaluan, was typical; the place of honour, the higher " north-east " comer of the house towards the mountain," was occupied by the sanggah kemulan, the family temple where Gedog worshipped his ancestors. The sanggah was an elemental version of the formal village temple: a walled space containing a number of little empty god-houses and a shed for offerings. The main shrine, dedicated to the ancestral souls, was a little house on stilts divided into three compartments, each with a small door. There were other small shrines for the two great mountains - the Gunung Agung and Batur - and for the taksu and ngrurah, the interpreter " and " secretary " of the deities. In Gedog's house the altars were of bamboo with thatch roofs, but in the home of Gusti's uncle, the noble judge who lived across the road, the family shrine was as elaborate as the village temple, with a moat., carved stone gates, brick altars., and expensive roofs of sugar palm fibre. Such a temple is not a modest sanggah, but receives the more impressive name of pemerajan . Noble people pay special attention to the shrine for the deer-god Mendiangan Seluang, the totemic animal of the descendants of Madjapahit, the Javanese masters of Bali.

Next in importance to the temple was the uma meten, the sleeping-quarters of Gedog and his wife, built towards the mountain side of the house. The met& was a small building on a platform of bricks or sandstone, with a thick roof of thatch supported by eight posts and surrounded by four walls. There were no windows in the met6n and the only light came through the narrow door. When one's eyes grew accustomed to the darkness inside, one could see the- only furniture, the two beds, one on either side of the door. In more elaborate homes the platform of the met6n extends into a front porch with additional beds. In Denpasar, where modernism is rampant, many a front porch is embellished with framed photographs ofrelatives, made by the local Chinese photographer. By the door of Gedog's meten hunga picture of him with his wife and children in ceremonial clothes, violently coloured with anilines, sitting dignified and stiff against a background of stormy clouds, draperies, columns, and halus-trades. The generous photographer had added all sorts of extra jewellery with little dabs of gold paint. I have seen the most amazing objects banging, in the porches of Balinese homes: dried lobsters, painted plates representing the snow-covered Alps, Chinese paintings on glass, old electric bulbs filled with water, aquatic plants growing out of them, postal cards I of New -York skyscrapers, and so forth; objects prized as exotic, rare things, as we prize their discarded textiles and moth-eaten carvings. In one,house we found a picture of Queen Wilhelmina; we asked who she was and the quick reply came:` Oh! itu gouvermen - That is the Government." The met6n is the sanctuary of the home; here heirlooms are kept and the family's capital is often huried in the earth floor under the bed. Normally the beads of the family sleep in the metn, but being the only building. in
which privacy can be secured, they relinquish it to newly~-weds or to unmarried girls who need protection. They shut themselves into it at night, but otherwise the entire life of the household is spent outdoors on the porch or in the surrounding open pavilions,
each provided with beds for other members of the family.

The other three sides of Gedog's courtyard were occupied by three open pavilions; on the left was the baM tiang sanga, the social parlour and guest house, and two smaller pavilions were on the. right (bal6 sikepat) and back (baM sekenam) where other relatives slept with the children and where the women placed their looms to work. In the lowest part of the land, towards the sea, were the kitchen (paon) and the granary (lurnbung). Rice was threshed in a cleared space (tongos nebuk padi) behind the granary. As in every household, there were two small shrines (tugu') , one west of the met6n, the other in the middle of the courtyard, the pengidjeng perhaps dedicated to the spirit of the land, " His Excellency the Owner of the Ground " (Ratu" Medrw6 Karang)

Such is the general pattern of the home of a family of the average class that has ricefields and is economically comfortable. The better homes often have more elaborate pavilions, one of which may become alodii (a Dutch word) by enclosing half of the pavilion with four walls, leaving the other half as an open veranda. This will provide a second sleeping-quarter for a married son. In the houses of the well-to-do the social hall is often a great square pavilion (bal6 ged6) with an extraordinarily thick thatch roof supported by twelve beautifully carved posts. A wellbuilt bale', the archtype of Balinese construction, is a masterpiece of simplicity, ingenuity, and good taste. It consists of a platform of mud, brick, or stone reached by three. or four steps and covered by a cool roof of thick thatch. The roof is supported by more or less elaborate wooden posts (tiang), the number of which determines their name and-function. Thus a bale" is called sake pat, seke nani, tiang sanga, or bal6 gede", according to whether there are four, six, nine, or twelve posts. Definite rules dictate the dimensions and designs of these posts, .2 3 lengths of the index finger (tujuh), or about seven feet, being the standard height of a house post. It has already been mentioned that the house must stand " upright "; that is, the bottom of the posts should be the end nearest to where the roots were in the tree. The roof is built of lalang grass sown on the long ribs of coconut leaves, placed close together like shingles and lashed to the bamboo skeleton of the roof with indestructible cords of sugar-palm fibre, with an extra thickness of grass added to the four corners. Then the roof is combed with a special rake and the lower edge is neatly evened with a sharp knife. Such a roof, often a foot and a half in thickness, will last through fifty tropical rainy seasons. The beams that support the roof are ingeniously fitted together without nails, and are held in place with pegs made of heart of coconut wood. Generally one or two sides of the ba16 are protected by a low wall and between the house posts are built-in beds or platforms of wood with springs of bamboo, also called bal6s, where distinguished guests sit cross-legged to eat, or where, with a mattress added and screened by a curtain, they are put up for the night.

In Belaluan everybody was up even before the first rays of the sun outlined the jagged tops of the coconut palms, awakened by the raucous crowings of the fighting cocks. In the indigo semidarkness of the dawn the women were busily sweeping the yard and bringing water from the village spring. The first thought of the men was for their pets; to line up the bell shaped cages of the fighting cocks out on the road by the gate so that the roosters might " amuse themselves watching people go by." The cages, of the cooing doves were strung up on high poles for them to enjoy the morning air and the sunshine, and the flocks of pigeons, trained to fly in circles over the house, were released for their morning exercise. As protection from birds of prey, they bad small brass bells around their necks that produced various bumming sounds as they flew round and round until they tired, when they came down to be fed.

After a refreshing bath the men started for the fields without breakfast, taking along a snack - rice boiled inside of little diamond-shaped containers of palm-leaf called ketipat. More substantial food was taken to them later if they bad to remain in the fields all day, but they returned at noon for lunch if there was not much work or if the sawas were near. Meanwhile the women fetched sheaves of unhusked rice from the granary, spread them on the ground to dry in the sun, filled the gebah - the large waterhasin in the kitchen - and started the fire for the day's cooking. A kitchen is a simple roof of coarse thatch supported by four posts"with a bamboo platform at one end - the kitchen table and a primitive mud stove at the other. Often a crude figure is modelled out of the same clay of which the hearth is made to preside over the kitchen. It is called brahma, not the supreme lord of the Hindus, but simply meaning " fire," an animistic fire god.

The food that Balinese gourmets eat at festivals is as elaborate as any in the world and will be described later in detail, but the daily meal is extremely simple. A mound of boiled cold rice with salt and chili-pepper was sufficient, our house-boy Dog claimed, to keep body and soul together for a Balinese like himself. The daily diet of Gusti and his noble family was the same cold white rice (nasi, a synonym for food in general), helped, however, by a side dish of vegetables chopped together with a dozen, or so of spices, aromatics, grated coconut and the hottest chili-pepper in the world. Gusti's wives did the cooking; Siloh Bing prepared the rice while Sagung scraped coconut in a kikian, a board bristling with little iron points, chopped the ingredients for the sauce' or fried them in coconut oil in an iron pan (pengorengan). Some eat their daily rice simply boiled in a clay pot, but in our household they preferred it steamed; they washed the grain repeatedly until the waters lost their milky colour and came out transparent, boiled it for a while, and when it was half done put it into a funnelshaped basket (kukusan) covered with a. heavy clay lid (kekeb) and steamed the whole over a special pot (dangdang) of boiling water. From time to time some of the boiling water was poured over the rice with a ladle of coconut she]] to prevent it from drying up and sticking together. The result was a deliciously dry, separate rice that served as a medium for the peppery sauces. The food was prepared with cleanliness, everything carefully washed first, and the food covered until eaten with squares of banana leaf.

As soon as the rice was done, they prepared a tray of offerings (ngejot) for the spirits that haunt the house: little squares of banana leaf, each with a few grains of rice, a flower, salt, and a dash of chili-pepper. No one could eat before the little portions were distributed in front of each of the house units: at the en trance of the family shrine, in front of the sleeping-quarters, in front of the little altar in the middle of the court, at the well if there is one,'and finally at the gate. The woman who distributed the offerings was followed by the eternally hungry dogs, who unceremoniously ate the grains of rice as soon as the offering was placed on the ground. Nobody cared, however, since
they were intended for evil spirits, which might, perhaps, be embodied in the dogs.
There were no set meal hours and they ate whenever they felt hungry. A little before noon the men returned from work, after taking. a bath in the spring or in a river and sat casually somewhere near the kitchen, often turning their backs silently on each other because a person who is eating should not be spokento. Each was given his portion of rice with its complementary sauce in a square of banana leaf which he held in the hollow of the left hand while the right acted as spoon and fork. The use of dishes and cutlery is to the Balinese an unclean and repulsive foreign habit. Balinese who use plates invariably place a square of banana leaf over them. When finished, the leaf dishes were simply thrown to the pigs; no dishes were left to wash. A kendih of water was passed around after the peal, each drinking in turn and at a distance from it, letting a continuous jet of water fall into the open mouth, the lips never touching the spout. (When we tried to drink like the Balinese we succeeded only in choking or drenching ourselves.) The mouth and fingers were rinsed, and after emitting a loud belch of satisfaction the men took a nap or went to the bale" banjar to chat before resuming work. Generally the women ate after the men were finished, then fed the pigs, and spent the rest of the afternoon weaving, threshing rice, or simply delousing each other, a great social pastime.

For a while it seemed as if the art of hand weaving would be wrecked by the ever increasing importation of foreign cloth. Chinese'silk thread was hard to obtain, aniline dyes gave brighter hues and were infinitely easier to, handle than the old vegetable dyes, and Japanese rayon for a few cents a yard looked almost like real silk. In later years, however, the affluence of tourists has increased the market for Balinese handicrafts and many women derive an income from selling garish brocades. On our second visit the women of our household took to weaving and every afternoon the 'characteristic rhythmic sounds of many looms came from all directions. On the Balinese loom (prabot tennun) the warp is stretched between a heavy wooden structure (tietiaga and pendalan) and a sort of yoke (6por) shaped like a Cupid's bow held by the woman 11 s back. After the bamboo spindle (tunda) has gone through the warp, the weave is tightened with a long ruler (be' lida) of polished hard wood that slides over a bamboo drum (pengrorogan),wbile the threads are separated with a bamboo tubes (bungbunggan) provided with little bells that jingle at every move. Thus the work is made easier by the rhythmical sequence of three sounds: the tinkling of the bells, the sound of the bollow bamboo as it is struck by the ruler, and the energetic double knock to tighten the weave. Weaving is the main occupation of the -women of caste who feel, above doing heavy house labour, but they are not, lazy and take to weaving with tenacity. In our house the wives and aunts of our host, all, noble women with servants. to do the housework, remained all day glued to their looms and often continued working into the night by the faint light of a petrol lamp.

Towards evening the ground of the house shook, resounding with deep, rhythmic thumping - the women threshing the rice for the next day's meal. Two women punded the rice in, wood mortars with long, heavy pestles, each dropping her pestle alternately in unfailing, 'perfectly timed intervals, catching it on the rebound with the other hand. Then the rice was separated from the husk by swishing it around in flat bamboo trays, the centrifugal force throwing the chaff towards the outside.

Everybody bathed again when the work for the day was done; by then the sun had begun to set and the atmosphere had cooled, so it was time to put on clean clothes, tiempaka blossoms in the women's hair, great hibiscus behind the ears of the men, and to go visiting or take a stroll and be admired. Back from work, the men sat in groups at the gates or in the middle of the road talking and fondling their fighting cocks until the sun dropped behind the curtain of coconut palms. Sunset' comes suddenly in the tropics and in a few seconds it was night, when the lamps were lit and it was time to eat dinner, the cold food left from lunch. There were many ways of spending an evening; elderly men fond of tuak, palm beer, belonged to " tuak associations " and met at the bale bandiar, summoned by a special tomtom. Or if there was a rehearsal of the village orchestra or a meeting at the bale bandiar, the men sat talking things over until they were tired, going to bed about nine or ten. But if there was a feast in,the neighbourhood, or one of the frequent theatrical performances, the whole family went to watch the show, remaining until it was over, long after midnight.


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