Monsters, Temples, & Towers of Fruit

Yesterday was a special day in the village. The temple in Batur Sari, Bale Agung, was celebrating Ngusaba Nini. This colourful event takes place annually and if I’ve got my facts straight and nothing has got lost in translation between Wayan Wonder Woman and myself,  it’s about celebrating the temple and warding off evil spirits. She mentioned monsters coming out at night but then sadly she didn’t have the necessary English, to elaborate further, or I the necessary Bahasa. Just the mere mention of  monsters, got my imagination running into overdrive.

Wayan and her 80 year old Mother. The rice on her Mother’s face shows that she has already been to the temple and been blessed by the Priest.

We gathered outside the temple yesterday afternoon and watched and waited for things to start happening. Irishman was kitted out in full Balinese dress, I on the other hand looked like I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards – even Wayan’s Mother made a point of commenting on this fact. I did wear a sarong and a sash, but I didn’t have a kebaya and I couldn’t borrow one of Wayan’s because my ample bosom wouldn’t allow it. Instead I looked a bit like a Goth, dressed from top to toe in black with just my Kenyan Kikoy to save the day.

Irishman’s specs have captured the Air Asia advert that was on some signage across the street.

Four different communties, or Banjar took part in the ceremony and it was a sight to behold. The highlight being the parade of around 500 women, all immaculately turned out (most of them having spent the morning in the beauty salons)  looking stunning in their outfits and bearing towers of fruits upon their heads. The priests and gamelan musicians joined the procession. It was a very happy afternoon.

I love photographing Balinese men. They are so uninhibited, and so natural in front of a camera. I think his gaze says it all.
Wayan’s brother, Ketut.
Cool dude and very serious young lady. However hard this sweet young girls Father begged her to smile, she remained very po-faced but very beautiful nonetheless.

Waiting, waiting.

It’s impossible to really capture these special occasions on camera. You need to hear it, see it, and be a part of it, but I hope that in some small way that I have managed to convey something of what it is like to be at a large Balinese ceremony. Oh, and one last thing. The women’s Dulang (towering fruit and flower head gear) has to be the exact same size, in other words everyone has has to adhere to a uniform height, even down to how many bananas, flowers etc they have. No cat fights allowed!

This rule of thumb, doesn’t happen everywhere. In Wayan’s kampung for example, the richer women who can afford more fruit and flowers show off by having massive over the top creations on the top of their heads, whereas the poorer women have to make do with more modest head attire. I like it, that here in Batur Sari, Sanur no one has to feel left out, that it has a more egalitarian approach.

STOP PRESS! I can’t believe that I’ve done this – I’ve never had to add a photo after I’ve pressed the publish button but this is my favourite of all of them, the back of Wayan’s Mothers head ….phew, here it is! Better late than never.

31 thoughts on “Monsters, Temples, & Towers of Fruit

    1. I’m so glad you can feel the sunshine and not the humidity! We were all dripping in sweat! The rainy season has now started so it’s boiling hot and very humid and sticky. Thanks for your lovely comment, and wonderful to hear from you 🙂


      1. Hi Lottie, we might be moving to Jakarta soon – for my husbands work. Not sure yet. I have really been enjoying your blog, a lovely introduction to Jakarta! So thank you for that. I would love to have a cuppa together if we come! 🙂


  1. Camilla, that sounds like a plan! Get in touch via my email which is on the Contact Me at the top of this page and I shall do everything I can to help you if you and your husband do end up coming to live in Jakarta. I look forward very much to hearing from you. Lottie


  2. What a celebration. I would never survive in that culture. All the dressing and messing with the hair. Poor women but I imagine that if you are born into it then it is part of who you are and it all comes naturally.

    The photos are so good. I especially like the individual photos of the people. But the parade of the women all dressed the same is interesting. An entire day of celebration? Maybe I missed that part.


    1. Every day is a celebration in Bali (in Hindu custom) and indeed everyday there is something to celebrate, so scenes such as these are quite common because if it’s not this temple for example it will be another or, there might be a full moon or some special occasion. I’m interested as to why you think that you wouldn’t survive in this culture?

      When you say ‘an entire day of celebration?’ I’m a little lost because all religions have days, if not weeks or even months of celebrating, or giving thanks, it’s not unusual. I love how the ladies get dressed up and the pleasure that it brings to them, you only have to look at the smiles on their faces – I think I need to take a leaf out of their book! Get down to the salon and go strut my stuff 🙂


      1. Well- I am just an odd one. I don’t care for holidays since my children are grown. I am from a small family and other relatives are scattered to the wind.

        The thought of having to dress up does not appeal to me. But as I wrote if one grows up in that culture then it becomes a part of who you are.

        I think it is wonderful that some cultures can be so happy. I had not idea about the culture of where you are. I am learning so much from your blog. It was a good day when I found your blog.

        Now if I can shake this blaaaaaaaaaaaa that I get in the fall. I have (seasonal affective disorder) and must push myself every day to take care of my animals and maybe work on my blog.


      2. I’m so pleased that you enjoy the blog, it’s lovely of you to say so and thank you.

        I’m sorry to hear that you suffer from SAD, I know a number of people that are afflicted by it and they say that they dread the shorter days and winter months.

        I shall parcel up some sunshine for you and send it your way 🙂


  3. Lottie, these photos are stunning — the shots of the people are wonderful. I MISS Bali so much when I see these. Thank you for sharing these. How special to have been at the ceremony. You’re right about the sensory details. That is what struck me so much when we were there. It’s not just the beautiful sights, but the sounds, smells, textures, climate that all combine. Thanks for this. xxx Steph


    1. Oh Steph, thank you 🙂 – I’m still giggling because Aaron left a comment after you which I read first. It will make you laugh too!! Yes, the sensory details… damn, I wish I’d thought to use that word, it would have been perfect. Bali is indeed a very sensory place. I hope you get back here soon, I think we could have a whole load of fun! XXX


  4. Lottie,

    I always love your world of photos! You make it look so surreal and wonderful through your use of photography. You made me curious about Ngusaba Nini as a celebration and I tried to find more information about it online. It evidently isn’t the most common event to find information on. I did read that it is only celebrated every 20 years… that your understanding too?? If it is only every 20 years I am sure it was a spectacle and well worth documenting on film and blogging about!



    1. I just roared with laughter at your comment! I really haven’t a clue! No seriously, all my info comes from Wayan WW and much as I adore her, a lot of what she tells me gets lost, quite literally in the translation. If what you’ve just read up about it is true, (you know the every 20 years part) – well Jeez, I say treasure these gorgeous photos because there’s not going to be any more on this coming your way for a v.long time!

      Great to hear from you Aaron, and thanks for your comment….I’m clearly going to have to go and do some more research!


  5. Great photos! Having spent hours delayed by Air Asia (I like the Air Later nickname), I’ve read their airline magazine a lot. They offer a photo competition with free tickets…just an idea ha!


    1. Our Air later flight was so delayed on tuesday that they ended up giving everyone a meal box while we sat waiting as some sort of consolation. I may be greedy but I’d so much rather that they got their act together and left on time. The trouble with those shuttle flights is that if one is late, it makes all of them late grrrrr. Glad you liked the photos, thanks Lydia.


    1. I’m so impressed by Balinese ladies balance. If I tried to balance one of those towering fruit and flower creations on my head, the consequences would be disastrous. Think up-turned supermarket trolley…bananas, oranges, pineapples, flowers, starfruits, papayas, mangoes all over the road.

      I’d love to go to a temple with you 🙂


      1. anytime, lottie! and by anytime, you DO know I mean anytime, cuz you just pick the day and we ask around, all the Ketuts and Wayans and Komangs we know and I’ll be darned if we don’t find ourselves a temple festival going on somewhere! xo


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