Some Trees Made Sacred by Balinese People

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sacred tree
An illustration of tree made sacred by Balinese people. (Image: Nusaweek)

Balinese (Hindu) people believe in the existence of a sekala (real) and niskala (unreal) world. Therefore, they always try to make the relationship between both worlds always harmonious. This is one of the factors that make their life peaceful, too.

On every occasion, be it daily activities or religious ceremonies, they always pray for safety. If they go to a garden, for example, they will ask for permission so they don’t run into those passing by from the unreal or faerie realms. If this happens, it would be bad for them. They can fall ill or feel discomfort.

Then, having cooked, they will put small offerings (ngejot) containing rice and side dishes in several places. Hopefully, those friends from faerie realms and spirits will also enjoy what they have cooked. Especially when they enjoy their lunch in the fields or in the gardens, they will also take the time to put rice as offerings with those friends.

How do they know that the niskala or faerie realm exist? This belief is based on information or narratives from their parents who obtained it from saints, higher priests or those who have the ability to do so.

There are some people who get the chance to listen to the conversations of those from faerie realms at particular places like in the big trees or in the forest areas speaking in Balinese, saying prayers of Tri Sandya at 6.00 am, midday and 6.00 pm just like in real life. Well, the stories then strengthen their belief. In short, even if they do not see it doesn’t necessarily mean if they do not exist.

Sacred trees

There are several trees made sacred to the Balinese (Hindu people). On that account, the trees are allowed to grow bigger and taller. In most cases the trees are located near holy places, cemetery or village border. Its characteristics are that the trees are covered with a checkered or white-and-yellow cloth or a bamboo platform is installed nearby used to put offerings.

Several trees belonging to the sacred species are kepah (mud clam tree), kepuh (wild almond tree), banyan tree, pule (blackboard tree), ancak (sacred fig) and others. According to stories having been passed down from generation to generation, a tree whose diameter has reached an adult’s embrace indicates that it has become the residence of a community from faerie realms. So it is forbidden to tamper with the tree.

Some of the sacred trees mentioned above have herbal medicinal properties, while some others are used to make sacred masks.

Tourism era

In this modern era, tourism activities are very open and widespread supported by the presence of citizen journalism. By that way, everyone can take photos and share them on social media or use it for personal documentation on their social media. Of course, this has positive and negative sides. On a positive site, tourist attractions in the community can spread out quickly or it gets free promotion with such spreads. As consequence, it has an impact on the rising number of visitors so that the tourist attraction develops quickly. Finally, the community also gets income from parking services or selling food, drinks or souvenirs in the vicinity.

Meanwhile, there are also commercial interests that pursue content and as many followers as possible to support business aspects in order to get advertisers or endorsers. For this one, sometimes the individual tourists (content creators) break the norms existing in society. They come into holy area carelessly. Moreover, there is a case where visitor climb the sacred tree or take selfies wearing obscene clothes so that their photos or content look unique and can easily go viral. The problem that may arise then is the existence of complaints from the public due to the violations of the norms in the form of harassment of these religious elements. This is then handled by the management of customary village in coordination with the police as law enforcers.

Case solution

Under coordination of customary officials and the police, the case is usually settled by a apologetic and purification ritual where the incident occurred. All procurement and ritual costs are charged to the violator(s). Then, as a administrative action, the regional government in coordination with relevant agencies will deport the violator(s).

So, to avoid similar cases and maintain the harmony of the local community and other visitors, all tourists, including local residents, are advised to always respect the rules and norms that may apply. Further information can be asked to your tour guide, driver or customer service at the destination,


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