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The House

As an organic unit, the structure, significance, and function of the home is dictated by the same fundamental principles of belief that rule the village: blood-relation through the worship of the ancestors; rank, indicated by higher and lower levels; and orientation by the cardinal directions, the mountain and the sea, right and left.

The Balinese say that a house, like a human being, has a bead - the family shrine; arms - the sleeping-quarters and the, social parlour; a navel - the courtyard; sexual organs - the gate; legs and feet - the kitchen and the granary; and anus - the pit in the backyard where the refuse is disposed of.

Magic rules control -not only the structure but also the building and occupation of the house; only on an auspicious day specified in the religious calendar can they begin to build or occupy a house. On our arrival we were able to secure a new pavilion in the household of Custi only because the date for occupation set by the priest was still three months off. We were strangers immune from the laws of magic harmony that affect only the Balinese and we could live in the house until the propitious day'wlen the priest would come to perform the melasp2sin, the ceremony of inauguration, saying his prayers over each part of the house, burying little ' offerings at strategic points to protect the inmates
from evil influences.


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A Balinese home (kuren) consists of a family or a number of related families living within one enclosure, praying at a common family temple, with one gate and one kitchen. The square plot of land (pekarangan) in which the various units. of the house
stand is entirely surrounded by a wall of whitewashed mud, protected from rain erosion by a crude roofing of thatch. The Balinese feel uneasy when they sleep without a wall, as, for instance, the servants must in the un walled Western-style houses. The gate of a well-to-do family can be an imposing affair of brick and carved stone, but more often it consists of two simple pillars of mud supporting a thick roof of thatch. In front of the gate on either side 'are two small shrines (apit lawang) for offerings, of brick and stone, or merely two little niches excavated in the mud of the gate, while the simplest are made of split bamboo. Directly behind the ' doorway is a small wall (aling aling) that screens off
the interior, and stops evil spirits. In China I had seen similar screens erected for the same purpose and once I asked a Balinese friend how the aling aling kept the devils from entering; be replied, with tongue in his cheek, that unlike humans, they turned
corners with difficulty. The pavilions of the house are distributed around a Well-kept yard of hardened earth free of vegetation except for some flowers and a decorative frangipani or hibiscus tree. But the land between the houses and the wall is planted with coconut trees, breadfruit, bananas, papayas, and so forth, with a corner reserved as a pigsty. This is the garden, the orchard, and the corral of the house and is often so exuberant that the old platitude that in the tropics one has only to reach up to pluck food from the trees almost comes true in Bali.

Curiously, bamboo is not grown within the house. If it sprouts by itself it is allowed to remain, but its growth is discouraged by indirect means. Such is the magic of bamboo that only old people may tackle, the dangerous job of planting it or digging it out, and the first lump of earth dug must be thrown as far away as possible. It is said that if this earth touches someone, he will surely die, and it is only on certain days that work concerning bamboo may be safely undertaken. Yet life in Bal i would have developed along different lines had bamboo not existed on the island. Out of bamboo they make the great majority Of their artifact, houses, beds, bridges, water-pipes, altars, and so forth. It is woven into light movable. screens for walls, sun-bats, and baskets of every conceivable purpose. The, young shoots are excellent to eat, while other part are used, medicine. I was told that the tiny hairs in the wrapping of the new leaves are a slow and undetectable poison like ground glass and tiger's whiskers. Bamboo combines the strength of steex-1 with qualities of the lightest wood. It grows rapidly and without care to enormous size. Social and economic differences affect but little the basic structure of the home. The house of a poor family is called pekarangan, that of a nobleman is a jero and a Brahmana's is a griya, but these differences are mostly in the name, the quality

of the materials employed, the workmanship, and of course in the larger -and richer family temple. The fundamental, plan is based on the same rules for everyone. Only the great palace (puri) of the local ruling. prince is infinitely more elaborate, with a lily pond, compartments for the Radja's brothers and his countless wives, a great temple divided into three courts, and even special sections for the preservation of the corpses and for the seclusion of " impure " palace women during the time of menstruation.

The household of Gedog, our next-door neigbbour in Belaluan, was typical; the place of honour, the higher " north-east " comer of the house towards the mountain," was occupied by the sanggah kemulan, the family temple where Gedog worshipped his ancestors. The sanggah was an elemental version of the formal village temple: a walled space containing a number of little empty god-houses and a shed for offerings. The main shrine, dedicated to the ancestral souls, was a little house on stilts divided into three compartments, each with a small door. There were other small shrines for the two great mountains - the Gunung Agung and Batur - and for the taksu and ngrurah, the interpreter " and " secretary " of the deities. In Gedog's house the altars were of bamboo with thatch roofs, but in the home of Gusti's uncle, the noble judge who lived across the road, the family shrine was as elaborate as the village temple, with a moat., carved stone gates, brick altars., and expensive roofs of sugar palm fibre. Such a temple is not a modest sanggah, but receives the more impressive name of pemerajan . Noble people pay special attention to the shrine for the deer-god Mendiangan Seluang, the totemic animal of the descendants of Madjapahit, the Javanese masters of Bali.

Next in importance to the temple was the uma meten, the sleeping-quarters of Gedog and his wife, built towards the mountain side of the house. The met& was a small building on a platform of bricks or sandstone, with a thick roof of thatch supported by eight posts and surrounded by four walls. There were no windows in the met6n and the only light came through the narrow door. When one's eyes grew accustomed to the darkness inside, one could see the- only furniture, the two beds, one on either side of the door. In more elaborate homes the platform of the met6n extends into a front porch with additional beds. In Denpasar, where modernism is rampant, many a front porch is embellished with framed photographs ofrelatives, made by the local Chinese photographer. By the door of Gedog's meten hunga picture of him with his wife and children in ceremonial clothes, violently coloured with anilines, sitting dignified and stiff against a background of stormy clouds, draperies, columns, and halus-trades. The generous photographer had added all sorts of extra jewellery with little dabs of gold paint. I have seen the most amazing objects banging, in the porches of Balinese homes: dried lobsters, painted plates representing the snow-covered Alps, Chinese paintings on glass, old electric bulbs filled with water, aquatic plants growing out of them, postal cards I of New -York skyscrapers, and so forth; objects prized as exotic, rare things, as we prize their discarded textiles and moth-eaten carvings. In one,house we found a picture of Queen Wilhelmina; we asked who she was and the quick reply came:` Oh! itu gouvermen - That is the Government." The met6n is the sanctuary of the home; here heirlooms are kept and the family's capital is often huried in the earth floor under the bed. Normally the beads of the family sleep in the metn, but being the only building. in
which privacy can be secured, they relinquish it to newly~-weds or to unmarried girls who need protection. They shut themselves into it at night, but otherwise the entire life of the household is spent outdoors on the porch or in the surrounding open pavilions,
each provided with beds for other members of the family.

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