My heater broke down yesterday. While waiting in my freezing apartment for the technician to arrive this morning, my thoughts drifted to warm sunny Bali where I visited for the first time in October.
Nicknamed “Island of the Gods”, there are estimated to be over 20,000 temples on Bali. The island’s predominantly Hindu population practises a unique blend of Indian Hinduism, Buddhism, and local animism. A deeply religious society, there is a festival almost every month in Bali.
I was chatting with my driver, Putu, on our way to the airport. He shared that there are four types of temples in Bali: The first being the family temple, which can be found within the compound of the family home, and the second is the village temple. There are also “functional” temples which have dedicated purposes such as to worship the god of the sea and god of rice fields. The fourth type is regarded as public property and these temples are looked after by the government.
Upon knowing that I am Singaporean, he mentioned that he had never been to Singapore. He added that while he could probably put together some money to go there for a holiday, it is not his “way of life”. For him and most people in Bali, a significant portion of what they earn goes toward the maintenance and/or the construction of the temples in their homes and villages. He emphasized that is more important that any extra money is used to upkeep and/or construct a temple than to go on a holiday as that is their “way of life”. I find this refreshing and give my respect to him and his fellow Balinese people.
Every traditional Balinese home is constructed around a family temple and is contained within by a high-walled garden compound. When you enter the home, often you would see a sculpture of Lord Ganesha at the door. With an elephant’s head on a human body, it is easy to identify Ganesha. Widely worshipped in the Hindu faith, Ganesha is believed to be a remover of obstacles, patron god of traveling, education and more.
Walking around one hot humid afternoon, I took three photos on one street. All of them were of Ganesha behind the ajar doors of someone’s home. Each sculpture was different and he was adorned with accessories by the occupants of the homes. I wonder how many renditions of Ganesha there are in Bali.
In Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali, there is a small but well-stocked bookstore called Ganesha Bookshop which can be found along Jalan Raya (one of the main roads going through the centre of Ubud). Why name the bookstore after Ganesha? For he is also the patron god of writers!
You can find a decent selection of second-hand English books in good condition, as well as some in French, Dutch and German. You can also buy CDs, postcards and music instruments here. However, the biggest attraction in this tiny bookstore is to be found at the back, with its impressive range of books – antiquarian, out-of-print, new, second-hand, rare – on Indonesia and Bali.