13 August 2013

Bali - The story of priest Dang Hyang Nirartha

Pura Perancak
The story of Dang Hyang Nirartha, the man behind the rise of Balinese spiritual consciousness, may sound more like a tale than a true story. but the Balinese believe it's a part of their history.

It was chaos in Java by the mid 15th century. Feuds were happening everywhere and the Islamic expansion had reached almost all areas of Java. Some Javanese Hindus sought refuge in the eastern parts of Java such as Pasuruan, Blambangan, Banyuwangi, Tengger, Bromo and Kelud. Others traveled as far as Bali, including Dang Hyang Nirartha, a famous Hindu priest who had a broad knowledge of religions. He was a handsome and powerful yet humble priest, and not only did he understand the values of Hinduism but he was also familiar with Buddhism and Islam. Along with his wife and seven children, he made the dangerous trek to the island of the gods.

The priest was first to arrive on the island and while waiting for his family to follow he built a temple called the Perancak Temple. When they arrived they continued their journey to the eastern part of Bali. Along the way they came across an enormous dragon with its mouth wide open. Dang Hyang Nirartha decided not to kill the dragon and instead entered the body of the dragon. The dragon suddenly disappeared and the priest appeared with his body glistening in gold. His family was terrified and ran for their lives.
For days Dang Hyang Nirartha tried to locate his family, and every single day he believed that he would be able to find them. He finally found his wife and six of his children, but he learned his oldest daughter had died when her soul came to him asking for forgiveness for letting fear overcome her. Not long after learning about the loss of his daughter, the priest lost his wife. Both his wife and daughter’s souls became the guardian angels of the village where they died and they are honored at the Melanting Temple.

The priest and his six remaining children continued their journey to east Bali. Day after day they came across Balinese people who at that time still practiced Animism, and Dang Hyang Nirartha patiently tried to convert them. He taught them that statues should not be worshiped because there is only one great power in this universe, which is “Ida Sang Hyang Widi Wasa” or God. The statue itself is only a symbol of God’s will and power.

To avoid any misinterpretation of Hindusim, Dang Hyang Nirartha created the concept of Padmasana, which has since become the main part of Balinese temples. Padmasana is a place where the power of God stands strong and is worshiped by Balinese Hindus. Dang Hyang Nirartha was also the one who introduced the use of fire (incense), holy water, and fresh flowers as part of the Balinese prayer culture. These materials (fire, water and flower) were believed to be the best tools to help people to channel their souls to the greater power when performing their prayers.

Year after year the priest continued to teach and build temples around the island, including the Rambut Siwi Temple, the Tanah Lot Temple and the Suranadi Temple in Lombok. Before his life’s journey came to an end, Dang Hyang Nirartha went to a beach in Kerobokan. He decided to bury his tobacco box (it is customary for Balinese Hindu priests to chew tobacco mixed with areca nut and lime, and it is believed that the tobacco boxes owned by the priests have powerful energy) and requested that the terrifying spirit who lived there guard it. Since the giant spirit guarded his tobacco box in a grim place, the priest named that place “Petitenget” (grim box).

Dang Hyang Nirartha then continued his journey south to a village called Pecatu, where he was finally able to reach Moksha (being freed from the karmic suffering of the world) at a location that is now known as the Uluwatu Temple. Until now, the concepts taught by the priest are still followed by Balinese Hindus. These concepts keep the balance of life in Bali and add richness to the culture of the island. For that, the journey of this priest will always be remembered by Balinese Hindus.

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