The flowers of India
Bali and India are connected at so many levels, from the obvious to the subtle. The majority of their populations adhere to the same, ancient belief system known as Hinduism, although each features differing nuances.
In one episode of the great Hindu epic Ramayana, the mighty white monkey, Hanuman (in India) or Anoman (in Bali), is assigned to find a magical potion that can heal the worst wounds and resurrect the dead. He scours the far-away lands and distant skies and stumbles upon a tiny island adorned with beautiful colors and exuding a mystifying fragrance. Many scholars believe that this island was Bali.
In the ancient Usana Bali scripture, the early settlers of the island pray day and night to the Almighty, begging that the divines would send gods and goddesses to the spiritually vacant island. Finally, Lord Pasupati of India lifts off the peak of Mt. Mahameru in the Himalayas and places it in Bali to stabilize the island. In ancient times, the mountain was known as Tohlangkir, its present name is Agung. Pasupati also instructs his two sons, Putra Jaya and Gni Jaya, and his daughter, Dewi Danu, to reside in the island and serve as the guardian deities of the Balinese. Putra Jaya reigns from Mt. Agung, Gni Jaya from Mt. Lempuyang, and Dewi Danu oversees the island’s rivers and forests from her palace in Lake Batur.
India’s first prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru called Bali “The Morning of the World”, praise that is still held dear in the heart of the Balinese people.
On a more subtle level, former governor the late Ida Bagus Mantra, one of the island’s most influential contemporary thinkers, was educated at Visva-Bharati University in Santiniketan, India. It was founded by the Rabindranath Tagore, a great and visionary poet who believed in the importance of beauty and arts in shaping human character.
Mantra was the person who initiated the Bali Arts Festival, an annual gathering aimed at preserving the traditional arts of Bali and inspiring future generations to take pride in their cultural legacy. Werdhi Budaya Art Center, the site of the festival, was also one of Mantra’s creations. All the buildings there are named after places and events from Indian’s mythology on the churning of the ocean of milk. The churning produces amerta, the elixir of immortality for the gods and goddesses, a telling symbol that the survival of arts and culture will ensure the survival of their human adherents.
The performance of various Indian folk and classical dances presented by the Indian Cultural Center on Wednesday night has further strengthened not only the ancient ties of a beautiful past shared by Bali and India but also the present connections enjoyed by their people.
— Photos by Anggara Mahendra