Kaja dik kangin dik Gus


Kaja dik… kangin dik Gus…

When Hindu Balinese orientate themselves in their world, which is dictated by strong religious convictions and beliefs based on traditions that date back more than a thousand years, they do things differently from people in other parts of the world.

If the island of Bali was once considered the ‘globe’ by the ancestors of today’s Balinese, their ancient GPS referred to a combination of geographical and astronomical markers: the highest mountain (Mount Agung), the sea (which surrounds every point of the island), the rising sun, and the setting sun.

From here stemmed further beliefs about how, for example, how any building should be laid out: the most important objects, such as shrines, the head of a residence, sacred objects and ceremonial building should be placed in the mountain-wards (kaja/kaler) or rising sun (kangin) positions. Conversely, the profane, menial and waste disposal buildings or areas should be in the seaward (kelod) or setting sun (kauh) positions.

This was extended to dictate the way people should sleep, with bed-heads facing kaja or kangin; any other way would surely result in a headache.

A further extrapolation of this is about movements. Balinese do not normally use their words ‘left’ (tengebot) or ‘right’ (tengawan) when they talk about directions; instead, they use kangin, kauh etc. A little surprisingly, it works perfectly well for them. Since Mt Agung is such an important geographical point for Balinese religiously – and religion is the most important thing in most Balinese’s lives – it is like second nature for them. You can often hear people working together on a project at the banjar – even young people moving ogoh-ogoh around – where they will say to one another “Kaja dik… kangin dik…” (mountain-wards a little… rising sun-wards a little…).

In early 20th century literature about Balinese travelling overseas for the first time, anthropologists have said that Balinese often feel disconcerted when they move away from Bali because they don’t know their orientation (and of course because it was impossible to find lawar!). I also experienced this when I took Balinese from villages overseas in 1999. However, in the 21st century, with more and more Balinese regularly travelling, I suspect this is probably more the exception than the rule.

Copyright  Kulture Kid 2014
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