Priests are an important group in Hindu-Balinese society who are highly respected. They take care of religious matters and ceremonies in the effort to keep the harmonious natural balance between what the Balinese call Bhuana Alit (the microcosm of the visible world) and Bhuana Agung (the macrocosm of the unseen world and the rest of the universe).
People often ask me what the difference is between Pedanda and Pemangku priests are, so I’ve noted a few important points that distinguish these two groups of religious people:
Pedanda, also referred to as Peranda, are high-priests and are addressed ‘Ratu Pedanda’ by others. They come from the Brahmin caste but not all  can become high-priests. Once a person is spiritually ready, they will be inaugurated as a Pedanda by way of a ceremony known as mediksa – this ceremony signifies that they are prepared to devote their lives to God and the spiritual world, leaving the material world behind. Pedanda are not associated with any particular temple or village and are only involved with ceremonies connected to God (dewa yadnya), humans (manusa yadnya) and the deceased (pitra yadnya). When they lead a religious ceremony they wear a crown known as a ‘ketu’ and use special paraphernalia for performing rituals, blessings and prayers. Pedanda, who characteristically have long hair which is tied up in a top-knot, are often sought as sources of spiritual and religious consultation.
Pemangku on the other hand are lay priests who serve a variety of functions and are addressed ‘Jero Mangku’ by others. They always wear white and can be distinguished by their particular style of white headdress. Pemangku are not of Brahmin caste and are mostly chosen by the village because of their pious nature, religious knowledge or their susceptibility to trance. Certain Pemangku are viewed as especially important if they are connected to a particular temple in a particular village, for example: ‘Jero Mangku Pura Desa’ or ‘Jero Mangku Pura Dalem’.
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