Yesterday, for the first time since we live in Bali, I took me seriously question my tolerance for the beliefs and customs of its inhabitants and are still shocked by what we have seen. We went to West Bali to attend a Big Cerimony or upacara in the local language. It was not the usual Cerimony, but the Tawur Agung Ritual, a very expensive Hindu ceremony that is held every 35 years in different parts of the island to purify the soul, the body and the earth and honor the Gods.
The villages involved each time are many, we went in the Beraban Desa. We discover with great happiness that we are alone, there are no tourists or Expat or Bulè. The Balinese welcome us warmly. We wear the sarong. The priest bless us with Holy Water and put the rice on our forehead. The idea of having a professional foreign photographer to their ceremony galvanizes them. They make us enter into the temple where there is the priest. It ‘s a series of shots, smiles, handshakes.
The music starts, followed by prayer and the subsequent meditation. Everything is cheerful, colorful, mystical and fascinating. We are being treated like honored guests. Most experts with English try to explain me the ceremony and taking pictures of me with mobile phone. We are invited to the banquet like Vip guests together with the priests and the elite of the village.
We all eat with your hands (not really chic), but lunch is rich and luscious.
But just as I find myself thinking about how much I’m enjoying with local customs and how much in the Western Countries we have lost the sense of community and faith, the magic ends up in a flash.
A slow row of Balinese is preparing to enter the part before the temple. Each of them brings their up with a rope and drag an animal.
Before us parade geese and ducks with garlands of flowers on their heads, festively decorated pigs, chicks and hens with colored ribbons at the neck. There are two black goats that are pulled by the owners, they bleat crazy, poor things. The calf is calmer, walk slowly, almost resigned. With amazement I turn toward Paul: “But those are dogs!” I exclaim, while a bad feeling makes its way inside me. Two puppies of the same age as Ombra are cheerful, nibbling the hand of their owners. A beautiful red ribbon encircling their necks, as if they were to be given away to a child on Christmas morning.And then there it is, the apotheosis of the horror: two men drag for legs a big Green Turtle. The crowd exclaims excitedly. Comes the priest followed by some women. All animals are blessed with Holy Water.The village has done its duty, and the spirits will be satisfied. They make three laps around the temple with the animals, followed by more prayers, songs and blessings.Then the inevitable, a premonition come true.
ALL ANIMALS will sacrificed to the gods. I can not believe it!!!
I try to understand, I ask questions, I would take all of them and run away … but where? How?
The Balinese answer me cordially, they smile again, as if nothing had happened, as if everything were normal.They don’t perceive the rupture of my voice, nor the dismay of my gaze.
WE, we are not laughing anymore. Stay there, it becomes a difficult choice. We don’t want to attend the carnage.
I hold back my tears watching the puppies unsuspecting of their fate that are wagging their tails. I take a picture of the turtle to document the blame, it is almost dying, gasping. I hope his agony will end quickly.
We go away. As we come back at home, thousand of thoughts mix in my head:
“Who am I to judge the customs of other peoples?”.
“I made this life choice to learn about other beliefs, with the maximum open mind.”
“I read a lot and traveled across the four continents. I know that these sacrifices do happen, they are part of the local customs of other ethnic groups. They are difficult to understand, but they must not to be judged. ”
“If you want the respect for your customs, you have to respect those of others”
“Tolerance, tolerance, tolerance …”
… .I do know all these things …. Often I repeat to my friends (isn’t true, Cristina?) … And I repeat myself … .and again … But, while the scooter whizzes fastest, the end is only sadness and bitterness. I try, but I do not understand. I can not believe in any God who asks his faithful the blood of living creatures to quench his thirst.
And I just have one question echoes in my mind: “Why?!?!”
Pictures by Sara