As we sat in the cool of the shady verandah, next to the open-
walled kitchen I looked into the eyes of my Balinese host.The
strong sunlight filtered through the shoulder-height woven
coconut palm walls and mixed silently with the aromas from the
I had come to write the story of a Traditional
Balinese Compound. Just look for a shop called Bali Budaya they
had said at the office. Here it was, Sunday already, and I had
only just made it.
Jack takes a business-like look at the mind of a successful artifact
trader in Bali. He discovers more in the philosophy of Wayan Sila than he had imagined.
It was a large establishment full of woodcarvings of various
shapes and colours. They were tastefully displayed and invited
closer inspection. Behind the premises was a covered bale where
artisans were working at their trade. Tourists who came to the
shop, would watch with interest and discuss with their guides,
the points they wished to clarify.
Walking in the heat through the carefully cut lawns and well
tended garden I felt like Alice in Touristland."The Bali I know
is not so well shorn," I thought. I arrived at the compound. What
was so special about it?
Books describe the way the Balinese compound once was, and this
one was laid out in the way the books described.
"There are so few traditional compounds left in Bali". Suddenly
there was someone beside me. From nowhere, the owner had appeared
and wanted to explain it all. This is the rice barn and this is
where I sleep.
The stonework was elaborate.The woodwork was carved exquisitely
and shone with gold leaf over the red paint. Plants grew from
nowhere, as they often do in Bali. The buildings were all in the
right place. The Sanggah, the holiest part of the compound, was
used for the family religious ceremonies.
I sat with my host outside the kitchen. We drank coffee."Is this
compound more than a status symbol and tourist attraction
combined?" I asked. My host smiled a devilish smile. Quietly he
answered my question.
We all have a body. Without any part of our body, we are not
whole. My compound is like my body. My feet are at the end, they
are the shop from which I trade. The house is the body and the
Sanggah or house temple, is the head.
My culture is Balinese. My religion is Balinese. My life is
Balinese. I wait for the time when the Gods come to my temple. I
enjoy eating Babi guling.
In 1989 I constructed this compound. It is true that it is rare
for someone to construct a compound along such traditional lines
these days. The compound gives visitors a chance to see the
Balinese style of building and understand a little of the
philosophy behind it. It allows me to make a contribution to the
understanding of the visitors. They help me by buying in my shop.
I return their help, by showing them a little more of our
What comes in through the feet - the shop, nourishes the body and
allows the head to make contact with the spiritual world beyond.
If all is right in the spiritual world, the feet will continue to
provide sustenance. It is a cycle. No part can exist without the
Bali is special. It promotes Cultural Tourism. It is a different
kind of tourism and could be described as a two edged sword. It
has good and bad effects. In some ways it damages the culture and
promotes changes which would otherwise be unacceptable. It also
provides an income and a good living for many Balinese. Those of
us who earn our living in this way should be able to express our
thanks to the Gods and return some of our profits to the people
who contributed them. It is another cycle. We take and give, we
give and take.
Cycles are the key to understanding Balinese culture. As long as
the cycle continues the body and the soul will be nourished. The
feet must nourish the body. The body must nourish the soul. When
the elements are in balance the cycle will be maintained. A good
product does not need advertisement.
If we look at two rice fields which are adjacent and we watch the
farmers in those rice fields carry out similar cultivation and
care but we see that one rice field flourishes while the other
gives a poor harvest, who can we blame for the result? The
farmers have given the same care but the Gods have given the
result. The same can be said for the business world, at least in
Bali, where we can never lose sight of the spiritual importance
of the relationship between the physical and spiritual worlds.
Business here, has little to do with show and everything to do
with the performance of the daily tasks which become the culture
which attracted the tourists in the first place. Another cycle.