Honoring The Goddesses: Sang Hyang Dedari

Nyimas Laula

2017 - Ongoing

Bali, Indonesia

“Honoring The Goddesses: Sang Hyang Dedari” is about relation between human and nature that belongs in a well-known Indonesia’s paradise and the Island of Gods, Bali. It was the roots of Balinese dances, a well-known sacred ritual that was practiced across the island to repel disease and bless the harvest, but as it becomes less relevant, only one remain survives. The island inhabitants slowly left their core of philosophy, leaving the island built by massive concrete to please the world’s hunger for pleasure. Sang Hyang Dedari becomes a lesson about, a lifestyle that is so primal, but could possibly be the option of environmental issue that rises along with mass tourism. The project becomes a witness on struggle to preserve a communal identity within the fast changing modern lifestyle that competes to reap profits from other’s visitation.

When the rice paddy has grained, Sang Hyang Dedari is held at a village in the slope of Mt. Agung, Geriana Kauh. Geriana Kauh has become the only village where Sang Hyang Dedari sacred ritual is successfully revived after more than 30 years of absence. During the ritual absence, the village agriculture was damaged by pests, drought, and the harvest was not fruitful, the villagers admit they had experienced harvesting empty rice grains.

Sang Hyang Dedari sacred ritual ‘performed’ by girls who haven’t reached their puberty. The girls danced during trance; moving wildly with their eyes closed alongside the chanting (gending), without practice and without formation. The movement is a movement of heart-arises without consideration-which is believed to be triggered by the Goddesses that possessed the girls' bodies.

The project wants to answer on question how the generation of youth in Geriana Kauh village sees the culture, would they still practice the sacred ritual in the next years to come? Along with the ‘cultural tourism’ in Bali, would Sang Hyang Dedari ritual remains held for its original purpose?

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  • A silhouette of Sang Hyang Dedari a moment before sacred ritual begin.

  • A woman praying in a Pelinggih, on the edge of a rice field in Geriana Kauh Village, Bali, Indonesia. Around 1970 until late 1990, their rice fields damaged by pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Just over the past decade, villagers have developed organic farming and returned to a ritual that glorifies nature.

  • In the morning before Sang Hyang Dedari's procession, which coincides with Kuningan Day, women deliver offerings to the pelinggih and temple in Geriana Kauh village. The majority of people who prayed were women.

  • Male youth of Geriana Kauh village prepares poles for Sang Hyang Dedari sacred ritual.

  • Ni Kadek Anggi Riskayanti looks at the mirror in her room as she prepares before the sacred ritual. To be chosen as Sang Hyang Dedari is an honor for the girls and also the family. The family believes the sacred ritual brings more prosper to the family, and to Anggi as a person.

  • In the afternoon before Sang Hyang Dedari's sacred ritual, female youths of the village gathers and assembles Gelung--crown of a dancer made of pomelo skin, and five kinds of flowers: frangipani, gumitir, cempaka, kenanga, and Asian Pigeonwings. The crown is placed on a banana leaf because it can not touch the ground to keep its purity.

  • An offering placed in a cup which later be used during Pengukupan—a closed ritual calling the goddesses to possess the girl’s body.

  • Ni Wayan Suniantari (10) gets her make up before Sang Hyang Dedari sacred ritual. This was her first time to become Sang Hyang Dedari.

  • Ni Kadek Anggi Riskayanti poses for a portrait before sacred ritual begins. The dominant color of clothing consist white and yellow, it symbolizes glory and holiness. The uniqueness of Sang Hyang Dedari's Gelung (crown) from Geriana Kauh village made from plants grown within the village, villagers believe it aims to modesty, brings them closer to nature, also encourages people to preserve the plants.

  • The Sang Hyang Dedari candidates sit during Pengukupan-- the calling of the goddess in Dadya Dalam Carukan temple. Shortly after inhaling the smoke of incense, instantly they lost consciousness, then lie down with their eyes closed, believed the goddesses have possesed the bodies. Women who used to be Sang Hyang Dedari, will help carry them to take to Catus Patha (intersection). Ni Kadek Astiti Asih covers her face as she inhales the incense smoke. She failed to become Sang Hyang Dedari that night. Of the six girls selected, only five girls succeeded in becoming Sang Hyang Dedari that night.

  • Lilit Linting, a procession when dancers climb up a four-meter-high bamboo poles that had consecrated before. Ni Kadek Anggi Riskayanti admits during Lilit Linting she felt like climbing through a vertical stairs, as the rest were looked like golden sea.

  • Cecantelan - the procession when Sang Hyang Dedari dancers rely on bamboo to symbolize the happiness of the goddesses. They move here and there, and always play around.

  • After stopping almost 30 years and almost extinct, Sang Hyang Dedari's sacred dance procession was successfully revived in the last decade. Ni Komang Septiani walks through the audience, blessing them with the holy water before she finally climbs the temple, washes her feet, bless herself and falls into sleep, closing sacred procession that night.

  • One of Sang Hyang Dedari, Ni Kadek Anggi Riskayanti (13), practices Balinese dance at a neighborhood association (banjar) in Geriana Kauh, Bali. Anggi has been becoming Sang Hyang Dedari since four years ago. While not in Sang Hyang Dedari's procession, the dancers act like ordinary teenagers.

  • A month after the procession, Geriana Kauh village harvest their agriculture product. During the absence of ritual, villagers experienced 30% deficit in their harvest. Therefore Sang Hyang Dedari sacred ritual was revived as the villagers believe the ritual brings more prosper and successful harvest. In this picture women in the village are in charge of separating the rice grain from the plants. After Sang Hyang Dedari sacred ritual revived, villagers

  • A statue of Sang Hyang Dedari made for Sang Hyang Dedari museum in Geriana Kauh village.