Paras is a volcanic tuff, a sedimentary rock also called sandstone. It is quarried from riverbanks, used as building stones and for statue carving, as bloit is soft and therefore easily worked. There are various types of paras, both in color as in texture. Paras is multi functional: it is used for walls, gates, steps, pond edges, and paving, as this sandstone absorbs humidity and might become a fertile base for moss growing. For several decades, paras was quarried from the riverbanks in central Bali, however, because of extensive quarrying creating erosion danger, paras is now imported from Java. Most of Villa Wastra’s walls are made of yellow and white paras stones and the balconies are made of paras batu showing small black spots as decorative element.
Paras wall at Villa Wastra
Popolan wall at Marga Tengah hamlet
Popolan is a type of adobe wall made out of mud, stacked one upon the other, without coping elements. Popolan walls are mostly found in mountainous areas, where the night cold hardens the adobe mix and makes it more impervious to the detrimental effects of rain. A few kilometers from Villa Wastra is the hamlet Marga Tengah, where most of the houses are encircled by popolan walls, from which grass and ferns sprout in the rainy season, and are dry and cracked in the dry season. A lovely sight and a must-see for architects interested in traditional Balinese architecture!
Bali is well known for its various ceremonies and festivals, one of them is Tumpek Unduh a ceremony that keeps the balance between humans and nature. The purpose of this ceremony is to respect the life of plants/trees in nature. Plants are according to Hindu philosophy man’s friend and should be treated as human beings. Therefore there are ceremonies when the plant is a seedling, when it is planted and when it is cut down or harvested. Trees, especially big trees are encircled and clothed like a human being with a black and white checkered cloth and given special offerings.
One of the biggest banyan trees in Gianyar, with a canopy-span of 75 meters grows in the hamlet of Pilan, in the hills of Payangan and visible from Villa Wastra. It is visited by many “soul seekers” who meditate under the big branches and among the firm aerial roots in search of peace of mind and enlightenment. One can reach the beautiful tree by crossing an old hanging bridge installed some 15 years ago above a deep gorge. Welcome to spiritual Bali.
In Bali, during the months of August and September, various festivals including kite festivals were held in Sanur, Tanah Lot and other beach locations. For the Balinese farmers it is the harvesting season. During this time, they fly their kites at a ceremony held in the rice fields, believed to protect the ripening rice stalks from birds and other pests. It is also during this time that the winds catch up. The flying kites produce a sweet melodic humming sound that may scare the birds and pests away and at the same time make the plants grow better and healthier. The sound is frequently associated with the holy flute of Lord Wishnu or Kresna, and regarded as the favorite sound of heavenly nymphs. For that matter, kites were thought of as winged chariots on which heavenly goddesses ride to earth to visit Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice and consort of Lord Wishnu.
Banten in Bali are offerings to the gods. These offerings are made to show gratitude for the fertility of the earth, for the good life and to ask for blessings. A small banten offering is usually symbolically offered and may consist of a few grains of cooked rice, traditional cookies, fruits, small coins, flowers, incense etc. Larger bantens may include whole dishes, such as duck, pork meat, eggs, fish, or a whole roasted suckling pig, many kinds of fruits, and cakes in different colors. Small bantens are placed in front of an entrance, on a road crossing, at a shrine. Bigger offerings are prepared for important festivals, such as weddings.
There are various forms and types of banten in Bali, each festival or ceremony has its own specific type of banten. According to our Balinese driver who is very knowledgeable in Balinese customs, there are around 300 types of banten, a different banten for a different ceremony. A banten maker should know exactly what objects are included in a certain type of banten. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Have you ever wondered what the word ‘wastra’ stands for? In Bali and in the Sanscrit language it means ‘cloth’. In Bali, cloths are more than just garments. Beginning with the yarn and the woven textiles, they are a medium through which the divine nature of the universe its material manifestations are recognized and expressed. Balinese view the divine nature of the living world occupying the center, which is seen in the places and ways in which textiles are used. Large trees are considered having a soul, therefore it should be dressed and covered with a cloth.
These testimonies to the divine are expressed during ceremonies and temple festivals. In a procession appear banner carriers with textiles secured to poles, the drum accompanying the gamelan orchestra is also covered by a piece of checkered wastra, and women carry piles of textiles on an offering plate on their heads. At certain temple festivals, deities will descend to the earth, and to welcome them, people decorate pavilions and entrances with colorful textiles, and drape the shrines with textile hangings.
Colors, material and pattern define the character of the cloth. Wind directions and colors are correlated with the gods: Red and the direction South are used to honor Brahma, god of fire and blacksmiths. Black, blue or green is associated to Wishnu in the north; white to Iswara in the east and yellow correlates with Mahadewa in the west. Siwa in his bi-sexual aspect has the color yellow or white, occupying the center.
Certain categories of textiles inform us of the social aspects of humans. Certain cloths, such as bebali are used during rites of transition, and made by descendants of royal families, as only they know their function and how to weave them. In previous times, endek and songket textiles were the prerogative of royal families only. Now however, there is no such distinction.
Water, an essential substance for all living things. Waterfall at Gitgit, Bali.
Common opinion around the island of Bali this last rainy season was that it rained far more than normal, especially in hilly and mountanous areas.
Bali has been blessed by lots of rain and beautiful rainforest that has been able to ensure water flowing in its rivers most of the year. Apart from the parts of Bali such as in the east, north-west and the Bukit area in the south, water has never been an issue really. It is in those hilly, jungle-like terrain where now some NGOs are developing a hydraulic pump system, delivering spring water to neighboring villages, building water storage tanks, and the installation of a piping system to link villages, in an effort to help economize the use of water in rural areas.
Off the main road Payangan-Kintamani in the heart of Bali is Villa Wastra a quiet dwelling place at the northern end of Banjar Penyabangan’s village road. The villa enjoys the old sense of spacious privacy, enhanced by a luxuriant and in some ways unusual green garden. The villa is hidden from the main street by a dense planting of bamboo trees and shrubs along a sloping drive that leads up to an iron gate.
The outer wall is planted with Mucuna bennetti (Flame of Irian), Pyrostegia venusta miers, the orange version of the Stephanotis, the White Ginger and the Passiflora. The covered walkway that leads to the dining room, on one side is bordered by bamboo shrubs. The pool is surrounded by various Heliconias in yellow, orange and red, and the tall Nicolaia elatior or locally called Kecombrang.
The side garden features a pond decorated with stepping stones and water plants leading from one section of the villa to another, surrounded by beds of Heliconias, Begonias, and Philodendron. Amid the rustic surroundings where birds freely fly around, Villa Wastra stands as a restful green oasis in the hills of Payangan, Bali.
Lush rice paddies, beautiful beaches, intricate culture Bali delivers. It has been the inspiration of many clichés: Islands of the Gods, Paradise Island etc.
Bali is not lacking for ways to define its image in the eyes of the world. Load-full of aeroplanes of tourists arrive at Denpasar’s international airport looking for their dreamland. Most come for a short visit, but others become so enchanted that they decide to stay. To all, Bali is an idyllic place where beautiful people are thought to live in peace and harmony with nature, far from the hassles and worries of the world.
It is the pursuit of this clichéd utopia that sees more and more people eager to get into this island and settle, to join the natives in their paradise luxury. A dream place where one could rest and fear none of the dangers of the outside world, in particular non from the inner spiritual self. People with this dream in mind are still searching….
Preparation of Balinese New Year
One of Bali’s most important festivals, Galungan is an event not to be missed when in Bali. It is a feast and festival held throughout the whole island and occurs every 210 days on Budha Kliwon Gungulan. It is believed that during this ten-day period all Balinese gods will descend to earth for the festivities. Barongs prance from temple to temple and village to village in celebration of Galungan. To the Balinese, Galungan is the most important holiday period as it symbolizes the victory of Dharma or virtue over Adharma, or all that is evil.
Tinutuan, Porridge from Manado (North Sulawesi)
Eating vegetarian on vacation is not difficult in Bali: the abundance of fresh foods and the move into the production of high quality salad vegetables grown organically and hydroponically has enabled creative chefs to cater to vegetarian markets. Raw foods, dynamic organic foods and healthy vegetarian cafes are springing up delightfully over the island.
Offering natural food with flair is Villa Wastra, who serves a wide variety of healthy food that, while not exclusively vegetarian, emphasizes vitality. Choices for breakfast, with an indulgent of good local snacks and desserts means that any time of the day you can boost your immune system with a juice drink, freshly squeezed from local fruits.