Our Global Neighbours: Kuningan Day in Sydney, February 2016
The Australian Museum helps the Balinese community of NSW celebrate its sacred day
Our Global Neighbours is a blog series containing stories from and about cultures around the world.
So much yellow is likely to impress the outsiders. But it’s all good as one of the main offerings of the day is yellow (kuning) rice. On this day, after visiting the earth, ancestors return to heaven. For their farewell celebration various offerings are made.
Yellow rice is placed in a bowl made of coconut leaves - it signifies peoples’ gratitude for prosperity, good health and the joys of life that God presented us with. Other offerings include fish, seeds and fruits such as cucumber, papaya and melon. Offerings make a lavish display on a tastefully decorated altar.
The celebration involves elements of provisioning ancestors for their return journey and so, the food sharing is a part of this welcoming, generous and inherently friendly gathering. Popular Balinese dishes are offered to members and visitors with a convivial spirit of inclusion.
The symbolism of offering is accompanied by gamelan music and a succession of performances. Dancers, in groups and solo, enact the stories from the rich repository of Balinese versions of Hindu, Buddhist and home-grown spiritual traditions. The symbolic potency of dances is greatly enhanced by the sophistication and beauty of highly codified movements and gestures. And it is extremely gratifying to watch young people performing with such candour and dexterity.
Dances retell episodes from the all-time favourite epic Ramayama. In one dance, handsome Rama and graceful Sita are in duet where through movements and gestures they express their mutual affection. Golden deer dance evoking a tale leading to Sita’s abduction was performed delightfully by a group of young girls.
Some instruments and costumes from the Australian Museum collection made us proud for contributing, if only in a small way, to such a moving and sophisticated display of devotion, where all senses are engaged in expression and perception of blessing and gratitude.
I compiled these notes mindful that the Balinese Community of New South Wales desires not only to maintain and nurture its unique tradition, but also to promote it to and share with the general public in our state.