Ubud – the heart of Bali
In Ubud, the art capital of Bali situated in the middle of the island we chose to stay in a traditional Balinese family compound (where several generations of the same family live together in different heavily decorated houses grouped around a family temple). We enjoyed feeding and playing with the monkeys in Ubud’s Monkey Forest, wandered on the streets filled with art galleries and shops, indulged ourselves with local rice deserts and admired the rice terraces that were visible even close to the city center. And Zeb felt in love with the banana pancakes that were served each morning for breakfast and which followed us constantly in Bali.
But one of the most impressive moments was a Kekak dance which took place in one of the main temples of the city. Kekak is a special dance that is accompanied by a chorus of more than one hundred men, called the “Gamelan Suara”. These men sit in a concentric circle, while singing, swaying, standing and lying prone – their voices and dance tell the unfolding tale. The story that night was part of the hindu epic Ramayana, which is also present in different forms in Balinese culture, as paintings and carvings.
That turned out to be just the beginning of the evening, as it continued with Sanghyang – a God inspired trance dance. The purpose of this dance is to protect society against the evil forces and epidemics. It can be presented in different forms, but the version we saw was Sanghyang Djaran (Djaran means horse in Java as well as in Bali). During the dance the horse rider is brought in a trance by the repetitive sounds of the Gamelan Suara and that allows him to walk on a bed of burning coconut husks, responding to the sounds. Seeing the rider’s devotion and tenacity we should be safe from any evil forces for a long time now!