Thu, 30 Nov 2000

A prayer for Pura Endek Temple on Lake Tamblingan

By Myra Sidharta

BEDUGUL, Bali (JP): We would not have embarked on this journey if the keeper of the Chinese temple at Tanjung Benoa had not told us about a preserved hat and a suitcase that he had seen in the Pura Endek temple on Tamblingan.

This information was especially interesting to us because we had just read an account of a Sino-Thai merchant in 1845 in an Indonesia magazine published by Cornell University. The account read as follows:

The woman interpreter and the village headman told me that at the foot of the fire-mountain there was a spirit house for Chong- po. A long time ago, a Chinese who belonged to the family of Tan from Amoy served as Chong-po and came with Sampokong to the city of Sampalang. The Chong-po was left alone, and he came up to this mountain. He took a barbarian as his wife and they had children. But the children were no longer Chinese, but became Balinese. They are Balinese today. In the spirit house, there was a palm- fiber knitted shirt and a Hainanese bamboo hat placed on a stone bed. The woman interpreter and the village headman took me to see this. The walk from the headman's house to the spirit house was about 160 cubits distance.

So on our way to Singaraja we decided to make a detour to Lake Tamblingan, the last one of the three lakes in the Bedugul area.

We must admit that it was a beautiful detour and the view over the lakes was magnificent. However, when we reached the village on the lake we were told that the car could not go any further and we had to go by ojek (a motorbike taxi), so we rented two ojeks, and went up the hill. Claudine's motorbike driver was not very good and made her fall, but luckily she was only slightly hurt. Her driver could not go further, so my driver took both of us on his bike. So there we went like the people in Jakarta!

But once up on the hill we stopped laughing, because we were so moved by the beautiful yet simple shrine in its serene setting. It was surrounded by a few tall trees as if to protect it from the elements. Further down were two big stones, one with a footprint on it and another in the shape of a jar.

We did see the hat, which was a hat usually worn by the people from Hai-Nan, a small island off the coast of China, and the suitcase was full of temple money, rice paper with prints in gold and red ink. Of course, neither the hat nor the suitcase was petrified, but probably made of stone to replace the objects which had decayed through the ages.

We tried to get more information, but there was no pemangku (temple keeper) around. The shopkeeper could not tell us anything more than that sometimes Chinese-Balinese come here to bring offerings. We had to leave with hundreds of queries about the origins of the shrine and we were determined to solve the mystery.

Back home we tried to inspect every single piece written about Bali, but very little was written about the Chinese, who used to live there in the mountain areas where they worked at the coffee plantations in the service of the local rulers. When the Dutch conquered north Bali in 1845, the Chinese were not allowed to stay on the plantations, but had to reside in certain villages like Munduk and Gobleg. They probably worshiped in the Balinese temples like their wives, since they had no temples of their own.

In September we got good news from friends in Bali. The piodalan (temple festival) would be on the day of the Purnama Kapat, or the full moon of the fourth month on the Balinese calendar, which would fall on Oct. 12 this year. So Claudine came over from France, and full of hope of meeting some worshipers who could tell us about the hat and the suitcase we went to Bali and then to the lake of Tamblingan.

Purnama kapat is a big festival indeed. Days before, the roads were jammed with trucks carrying worshipers to their temples. And it was the same at Lake Tamblingan. We saw the women dressed in the latest fashion from Jakarta, a very thin kabaya and sandals with very thick rubber heels. For the men the fashion seemed to be a short apron made of yellow Chinese brocade with a chrysanthemum motif, worn over their sarongs.

The village on the lake Tamblingan was transformed into a huge festival. Many people had set up shops where they sold food, clothing, souvenirs or just coffee. They all came to visit the main temple on the lake which had just been renovated and was now being inaugurated by the officials. Present were delegations from temples in the neighborhood, 32 in all, who came to pay their respects.

We went straight to the small shrine, and having come in a jeep this time, we were able to reach the foot of the hill and only had to climb the steps to the top. What we saw was a great shock to us, not only were there no worshipers at all, there were only a few flower offerings that indicated that some people had come to visit but had now disappeared. The roof of the shrine and the umbrella were moldy and had lost the elegance that we had seen on our previous visit. The shrine had lost part of its protection from two big trees, which had been uprooted.

We sat there for a while and moved on to join the people at the main temple. We joined them in their prayers and asked secretly for a solution to rescue the shrine.

The writer is a psychologist and an expert in Sinology