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Bali Island

MALAY Archipelago lies directly on the volcanic belt of the world. Like the backbone of some restless, formidable antediluvian monster, more than three hundred volcanoes rise from The Sea in a great chain of islands - perhaps all that remains of A continent broken up in prehistoric cataclysms - forming a continuous land bridge that links Asia with Australia. Because of its peculiar and fantastic nature, its complex variety of peoples, and its fabulous richness, the archipelago is one of the most fascinating regions of the earth. It includes famous islands like Java, Borneo, Sumatra, New Guinea, the Philippines, and the hysterical. Volcano-Island of Krakatau. Such freaks of nature as the giant " dragon " lizards of Komodo, the colored lakes of Flores, the orangutans, the rafflesia (a flower over three feet in diameter), and the birds of paradise, are to be found nowhere else, The population of the islands ranges from such forms of primitive humanity as the Negritos, the Papuans, the Kubus, who seem only a few steps away in the evolutionary scale from the orangutan, to the super civilized Hindu-Javanese, who over six hundred years ago built monuments like Borobudur and Prambanan, jewels of Eastern art.

Through the centuries, civilization upon civilization from all directions has settled on the islands over the ancient megalithic cultures of the aborigines, until each island has developed an individual character, with a colorful culture, according to whether Chinese, Hindu, Malay, Polynesian, Mohammedan, or European influence has prevailed. Despite the mental isolation these differences have created, even the natives believe that the islands once formed a unified land. Raffles, in his History of lava, mentions a Javanese legend that says, “the continent was split into nine parts, but when three thousand rainy seasons will have elapsed, the Eastern Islands shall again be reunited and the power of the white man shall end."

One of the smallest, but perhaps the most extraordinary, of the islands, is the recently famous Bali - a cluster of high volcanoes, their craters studded with serene lakes set in dark forests filled with screaming monkeys. The long green slopes of the volcanoes, deeply furrowed by ravines washed out by rushing rivers full of rapids and waterfalls, drop steadily to the sea without forming lowlands. just eight degrees south of the Equator, Bali has over two thousand square miles of extravagantly fertile lands, most of which are beautifully cultivated. Only a narrow strait, hardly two miles across, separates Bali from Java; here again the idea that the two islands were once joined and then separated is sustained by the legend of the great Javanese king who was obliged to banish his good-for-nothing son to Bali, then united to Java by a very narrow isthmus. The king accompanied his son to the narrowest point of the tongue of land; when the young prince had disappeared from sight, to further emphasize the separation, he drew a line with his finger across the sands. The waters met and Bali became an island.

The dangers lurking in the waters around the island suggest a possible reason why Bali remained obscure and unconquered until 1908. Besides the strong tidal currents and the great depths of the straits, the coasts are little indented and are constantly exposed to the full force of the monsoons; where they are not bordered by dangerous coral banks, they rise from the sea in steep cliffs. Anchorage is thus out of the question except far out to sea, and the Dutch have bad to build an artificial port in Benoa to afford a berth for small vessels.

The beginning there was nothing, all was emptiness; there was only space. Before there were the heavens, there was no earth, and when there was no earth, there was no sky. Through meditation, the world serpent Antaboga created the turtle Bedawang, on who lie coiled two snakes as the foundation of the World. On the world turtle rests a lid, the Black Stone. There is no sun, there is no moon, there is no night in the cave below (the underside of the stone); this is the underworld, whose gods are the male Batara Kala and the female Setesuyara. There lives also the great serpent Basuki."

Kala created the light and Mother Earth, over which extends a layer of water. Over this again are consecutive domes or skies, high and low; one of mud (which dried to become the earth and the mountains); then the 'empty' middle sky (the atmosphere), where Iswara dwells; above this is the floating sky, the clouds, where Semara sits, the god of love. Beyond that follows the 'dark' (blue) sky with the sun and the moon, the home of Surya; this is why they are above the clouds. Next is the Perfumed Sky beautiful and full of rare flowers where live the bird Tiak, whose face is like a human face, the serpent Taksaka, who has legs and wings, and the awan snakes, the falling stars. Still higher in the sky gringsing wayang, the' flaming heaven of the ancestors! And over all the skies live the great gods who keep watch over the heavenly nymphs." Thus we have it that the island rests on the turtle, which floats on the ocean.

As the last Asiatic outpost to the east, Bali is interesting to the naturalist as an illustration of the theory of evolution. In 1869 Alfred Russell Wallace discovered that the fauna and flora typical of Asia end in Bali, while the earlier, more primitive biology. Cal forms found in Australia begin to appear in the neighboring island of Lombok, just east of Bali.

This is from the Catur Yoga, a popular manuscript which translated for the sake of practice on the language. It consists of ideas on cosmogony, mythology, legends of the creation of man, etc., ending in a confused set of rules for cremation and Balinese genealogies.

(Banteng), Monkeys, woodpeckers, pythons, etc., of Asia are not to be found farther east, and the cockatoos, parrots, and giant lizards predominate. Bali has the luxuriant vegetation of tropical Asia, while Lombok is and thorny, like Australia. Wallace drew a line across the narrow straits between Bali and Lombok, the deepest waters in the archipelago, to divide Asia from Oceania.' Today, however, scientists are more inclined to regard the islands as a transitional region.

As in all countries near the Equator, Bali has an eternal summer with even, warm weather, high humidity, and a regular variation of winds, but the unbearable heat of lands similarly situated is greatly relieved by sea breezes that blow constantly over the descending slopes of the four volcanoes that form the island. The seasons are not distinguished as hot and cold, but as wet and dry. It is pleasantly cool and dry during our summer months, when the southeasterly winds blow, but in November the north-west monsoon ushers in six months of a rainy season so violent that it makes everything rot away, growing green whiskers of mould on shoes that are not shined every day. Then the atmosphere becomes hot and sticky and the torrential rains that lash the island cause landslides that often carry enormous trees into the deep ravines cut into the soft volcanic ash by the rivers, themselves red with earth washed from the mountain. Brooks and rivers swell into huge torrents (banjir) that rise unexpectedly with a deafening roar, in front of one's eyes, carrying away earth, plants, and occasional drowned pigs, destroying bridges and irrigation works. It is not unusual for a careless bather to be surprised by a sudden banjir and to be carried away in the muddy stream.

It is only natural that in a land of steep mountains, with such abundant rains, crossed in all directions by streams and great rivers, on a soil impregnated with volcanic ash, the earth should attain great richness and fertility. The burning tropical sun shining on the saturated earth produces a steaming, electric, hot. house atmosphere that gives birth to the dripping jungles that cover the slopes of the. Volcanoes with prehistoric tree-ferns, pandanus, and palms, strangled in a mesh of creepers of all sorts, their trunks smothered with orchids and alive with leeches, fantastic butterflies, birds, and screeching wild monkeys. This exuberance extends to the cultivated parts of the island, where-the rice fields that cover this over-populated land produce every year, and without great effort, two crops of the finest rice in the Indies.

Despite the enormous population, the lack of running water has kept the western part of the island uninhabited and wild. The few remaining tigers, and the deer, wild bog, crocodiles, great lizards, jungle cocks, etc., are the sole dwellers in this and hilly country covered with a dusty, low brush. Curiously enough, the Balinese regard this deserted land (Pulaki) as their place of origin. They explain in an old legend that a great city, which still exists, once flourished there, but has been made invisible to human eyes by Wahu Rahu, the greatest Brahmana from Java, who was forced to flee from the jdlisiblueital, Gelgel, to save his beautiful daughter from the king (by caste his inferior) and who found refuge in Pulaki by making the city invisible to the wicked king and his followers.

Another and region in contrast with the extravagant fertility of the island is the peninsula of limestone called Tafelhoek (Bukit to the Balinese) which rises to a height of 700 feet above the sea. This curious tableland, which shows every indication of having once been at the bottom of the ocean, is joined to the mainland by 2 low, narrow isthmus, but its sides rise almost vertically from the sea, and on the extremity of a long narrow rock, with a straight drop Of 250 feet, is the fantastically situated temple of Uluwatu, one of the holiest in Bali. This projecting rock is believed to be the ship, turned to stone, of Dewi Danu, the goddess of waters.

The mountains with their likes and rivers are the home of the gods and the sources of the land's fertility, and they stand for everything that is holy and healthy. To the Balinese everything that is high is good and powerful, so it is natural that the sea, lower than the lowest point of land, with the sharks and barracuda that infest the waters, and the deadly sea-snakes and poisonous fish that live among the treacherous coral reefs, should be considered as tenget, magically dangerous, the home of the evil spirits. Few Balinese know how to swim and they rarely venture into the sea except to bathe near the shallow beaches, and then they go only a few feet from the shore. There are small settlements of fishermen who brave the malarial coasts of Kuta, Sanur, Benua, and Ketewel, but in general fishing is done on a small scale, either with casting-nets, or in beautiful prows shaped like fantastic.

“Elephant-fish"(gajah-mina); with elegant stylized trunks and eyes to see at night. With their triangular sails apex downward, they go far out to sea at sunset to procure the giant sea-turtles required at the frequent banquets of this feast-loving people. Most Balinese seldom eat fish and remain essentially a rice-eating race. Their repugnance for the sea may be due to the same religious fear of the supernatural that prevents them from climbing to the summit of the great mountains. The Balinese feel that the heights are for the gods, the middle world for humans, and the depths and low points for the spirits of the underworld. They dread the unholy loneliness of the beaches haunted by demons and they believe that the coastline is under the influence of Jero Gede Mecaling, the Fanged Giant, who lives on the barren island of Nusa Penida. They are one of the rare island peoples in the world who turn their eyes not outward to the waters, but upward to the mountain tops.

 
 
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