Information before you go
'Banjar, organizing life within a Balinese village'
While the National government controls the island of Bali, at village level (desa) more emphasis is placed on the role and impact of the Banjar; a cooperative society that determines almost every aspect of the Balinese daily life.
Unlike the subak, the village organization that controls the irrigation and management of the Balinese rice fields, this cooperation is more focused on life within the village.
The role of this cooperation should not be taken lightly as the daily life of a village is dependent on it, as such every individual within the village.
For instance it makes decisions on dates of religious events, maintenance of temples, land use, organization and funding of important ceremonies and if necessary,they even hand out penalties.
It is important for a Balinese to be part of this cooperation as specific ceremonies such a marriage or cremation can be really expensive and impossible to organize by yourself.
However with this cooperation all members assist in ensuring that these ceremonies can take place.
We were able to see how important these co operations are during one of the biggest events ever, a royal cremation in Ubud. Here Banjars from the surrounding areas came together to help and to make sure that everything was well organized that day.
Each Banjar would also take turns in carrying the heavy tower in which the body was placed towards the final temple.
At other times we saw the cooperation in action during a surfing competition in Canggu. Here the members managed the traffic and assisted the people who entered the area.
Some of them look like gang members with their dark sunglasses and uniform Balinese clothing.
Members are easily spotted...
Because a Balinese village can be big, it often has more than one Banjar which together can participate in village activities. However each cooperation does remain independent within a designated boundary.
In the past these boundaries were pretty clear. The cooperation would include members of a row of houses or a neighborhood with their own temple.
However nowadays the concept has widen a bit, as within a specific area there can even be more than one cooperation and the members can even live far apart from each other.
Membership is compulsory and a married couple is automatically included. A couple will receive rights and obligations however if the husband, who is the active member of the family refuses to join he would be banned forever and would be considered 'dead'.
He and his family would not be able to participate in any communal activity any longer.
Women and children are also considered a member, but they do not actively participate in the meetings. The wife of a family can only indirectly have a say through her husband who attends the meeting.
Ready to assist during the royal cremation...
The head of the cooperation is the 'Kliang-Banjar' who is elected by the members and approved by the gods through a spiritual medium. Once elected he's not entitled to decline.
It's considered an honor to be chosen however being responsible for all the activities the Kliang is not entitled to any privileges or wages.
Besides receiving extra rice or a small percentage of funds, he is equal to any other member of the group.
All the meetings are held in one place, a bale, which can be considered as a community hall where everybody gets together. Everything that the cooperation owns can be found here as well.
Each Banjar usually owns a fully equipped kitchen where food preparations take place for all of the festivities.
Besides that they also have their own orchestra and dancing group which practice for or performs during festivities.
The orchestra of one of Ubud's many Banjars...
A couple of times when driving around Bali at night we would pass a village that was already pitch dark. All the lights in the houses would be turned off except for one location, the Banjar bale.
Here you would see the villagers huddled together watching a performance or just enjoying a chat. Sharing some village gossip probably... ;-)
Besides the bale you can always find the little communal temple called the pamaksan.
However when a cooperation exceeds its boundaries and tends to be more a village instead this temple will become the village's 'temple of origin' (pura puseh).
The 'village temple' (pura desa) and 'temple of the dead' (pura dalem)are the other two temples that are important for each independent Balinese village.
Together with the temple of origin they form the three reglementary temples (kahyangan tiga).
The daily life of the Balinese are filled with religious ceremonies and social resp onsibilities. It is clear that with this cooperative society the Balinese can follow their lifestyle which is strongly based on giving and receiving.
Bali is famous for its rice field views and terraces. The ‘Subak’ is an organization that is responsible to maintain this landscape and assure a good harvestRead more
Every evening you can enjoy a Bali dance performance held at different locations. It is a great way to see the ancient dances and traditional clothing that Bali is known for.Read more
Many say that East Bali is still how Bali used to be with its rice field terraces, little Balinese villages, important temples and other historical sights worth the visit.Read more
Now and then people send us inspiring emails and this generates even more enthusiasm to share all of the things we know about this lovely island in the hope that you can plan your tropical holiday properly and have as such a great time as we always have. Hope to see you there!
When I wrote the mail I never really expected a reply. I might have expected a computer generated but never a personally written one. The information you provided is invaluable, thank you so very much. I have been using your website as a bible through Bali. Through your recommendation, I will be heading to Ubud then follow the sightseeing route to the coast of Candidasa.
WOW...what an awesome website. I could only dream that there would be a website like this for all our travel destinations! You guys have done an fabulous job and now, I am sooo excited about our upcoming trip to Bali. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure Bali was the place for us considering some of the travel warnings (we are Americans). But I can tell from your experiences that the Bali people are so very kind and peaceful.
hi and congratulations on the blog it s brilliant and helpful....we are going to Bali in September with my family (including 2 little girls) so we need to have nice spaceous rooms garden and pool access rooms preferably in Semikyak but not too far from it all...I hope you can recommend a great place thats not full of Australian crowds as we like meeting people from other countries.
Hi, I have been travelling for years and I want to say that this website is the best I have EVER come across. It is easy to navigate, it is really descriptive, gives all the info that you could ever want and is accompanied by the best photos and advice. GREAT.