Ancient Temple Dance of Bali on 8th November 2006
The Pantanjala Yoga Kendra hosted Shri Agung Pertu from Bali, Indonesia on 8th November, 2006. Shri Agung Pertu holds a Master's degree of Arts, from Institute Seni Indonesia (The Indonesian Institute of Arts, Bali) and is presently studying for the Master's degree of Philosophy in Hinduism. He is an active member of Indra Udayana Vedanta Community, Bali. He arrived in Rishikesh with a group of Balinese Hindus led by Br. Indra Udayana, a well-known Peace Activist and the President of the Gandhi Ashrams in Bali and other parts of Indonesia.
All of the dances from Bali are a prayer to God. In Bali, music, dance, sculpture, and painting are focused on the temples and shrines and are practiced with an intensity unknown elsewhere in the world. Art is woven intimately into the life of the people of this island.
The first dance that was performed by Mr. Pertu is called "Kebyar Duduk Dance", which is a dance about a Sthitaprajna Brahmachari (a celibate youngster who is spiritually attempting to stabilize his mind and intellect to obtain the ability to realize the higher Truth). In this dance is depicted his attempt to perform Yoga Exercises, to cultivate deep Devotion to God, and introduce Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga into his daily routine. The Fan, called “Kipas” in Balinese, symbolizes Samsara Chakra (the cycle of birth and death, the annihilation of which is the sole purpose of all spiritual activities). The goal of the dancers is to establish harmony between mind, speech, and actions; this dance is considered a means of achieving Trikaya Parishuddhi (purity of body, mind, and soul).
Amongst the rest of the three dances, in which were used lavishly decorated masks, the first dance, called "Topeng keras" was about a Grihastha (householder). This dance attempts to show how one can become a good and ideal householder. The character and life of the Grihastha should be strong like a Hero; for only in this way, can he truly protect his family. For this he needs to work hard; yet while doing so, he should never cease to pray to God. In fact, the complicated hand movements express deep discipline and teach us that the hands should always work, they should never stop or rest: “Ayam me hasto bhagavan”.
This dance is called "Topeng Tua", through which the idea was presented that the body becomes old, but never the Soul. Even in old age, we should always remember God, and should work and live as if we are His instruments. All the qualities and emotions of an old man were shown, even things like falling down on the ground to make his grandson happy.
This dance is called "Topeng Arsa Vijaya" which is about the wisdom of a human being; we should become like Devas (Gods), filled with Eternal Wisdom. This dance marks the completion of religious rituals, very much like the Purnahuti in Vaidika Homa. Through this dance, perfection and completion of a ritual is achieved.
We finish our description of the evening with a devotional offering in the artist’s own words:
“When I perform the Topeng dances; behind the mask I close my eyes. In that state, I feel as if I'm one with God. In no other dance does the whole human personality feel complete. By performing such dances, even the spiritual environment becomes more powerful and enchanted with divine powers. In fact, for the Topeng dances, special religious initiations are required. When I'm behind those masks, it feels like I am entering a state of trance. Moreover, when I close my eyes, I can feel the character that I'm performing; and it feels as if I become somebody else, as if another personality enters into me. Through this I'm able to understand other people in a better way, like the situation of the poor people, or their pain, etc. As a young man, when in the mask of the old man, I can understand the pain and the feelings of an old man, which I think is very necessary for the youth generation to know. Through practicing these dances, we can understand others more easily. The feeling that I have while performing is that God is always with me; it is a very powerful feeling.”