Download On May 6, Belgium hosted the largest Balinese festival held outside of Indonesia.
The Ogoh-Ogoh festival features giant Balinese puppets and traditionally marks Nyepi, or Balinese New Year – a day marked by silence on the island of the gods.
The event was held in Pairi Daizi Park, a former monastery turned international cultural park.
Ging Ginanjar joined Balinese from all over Europe at the unique festivities.
The sound of Balinese gamelan or traditional gongs fill the air.
Dozens of people follow the beat energetically, shouting passionately as they move the giant mythological puppets in a reenactment of a fighting scene from the Mahabarata.
The puppets are moulded into the likeness of mythological warriors and Hindu gods and goddessses like Saraswati and Hanoman, the monkey god.
In the front line, ladies are dressed in traditional Balinese attire, kebaya and sarong, and balance baskets laden with fruit on their heads.
And there’s a typical Hindu temple in the distance.
But this is miles away from Bali – it’s in Belgium, in the small town of Burgelette.
This is the second time the Ogoh-Ogoh Festival has been held in Pairi Daiza Park.
Arif Havas Oegreseno, the Indonesian Ambassador to Belgium is the man behind the festival.
He says the event has bought new life to the park’s Agung Shanti Bhuwana Temple, which was officially opened in 2009.
“Pairi Diza wants to liven up this place and the life of the temple is religious ceremonies. So that’s why last year I had an idea to have religious ceremonies here,” says Ambassador Arif.
“So we had at the Sarawasati ceremony and Ogoh-Ogoh festival. These events brought along the spirit and life into this Balinese temple. So the people who come here really feel like they are in Indonesia.”
Arif Havas Oegreseno is not exaggerating – there is definitely an Indonesian ambiance here.
The event started with the sounding of gongs in the temple, followed by a traditional Balinese Sarawasti Hindu ceremony.
More than 400 people turned up for the event and 350 were Balinese who traveled from all over Europe.
60 students from the Indonesian Hindu University in Denpasar who are studying in Europe also attended the event.
After the ceremony, the students performed several dances like the traditional Balinese kecak, which blew European tourists away.
Belgium’s Agung Shanti Bhuwana Temple is the largest Hindu Balinese Temple outside of Indonesia.
It is made out of rocks from Bali’s Mt. Agung that were imported to the site in 350 containers and constructed by Balinese builders.
The Shanti Bhuwa Temple, the brainchild of Eric Domb, is iconic.
“It is a symbol of my gratitude to Indonesia. When I was 17 years old, I made the first visit to Indonesia and fell in love,” explains Eric.
“I came back thirty years later, 2006, with a project to build a real pura –Balinese temple, with the stone from Gunung Agung, with the best people to craft the temple”.
Apart from the Balinese temple, a miniature Borobudur, a Timorese village, long Dayak houses and Papuan artifacts are also found on the grounds.
There’s even a rice paddy field with water buffaloes.
But Pairi Daiza Park has more than just an Indonesian section. The 55-hectare area was a monastery in the 12th century, and ruins of the original tower remains.
In the past it was also a bird park and later a zoo, but since 2006 it has been developed into a cultural park.
Now it includes a traditional Chinese garden and areas devoted to the Aztecs, the Mongols and various African tribes.
Domb family’s owns the park, but Eric oversees its management.
He says the park’s main focus is on Asia.
“I am European, but inside, I think I am from Asia. The big diffrence between West and East is that in the West, you have to choose: good or bad, either this either there,: he explains.
“In Asia, it is black and white, good and bad. It is the confrontation, the tension, between different pulsions, which make the visions of most oriental people so interesting to follow,” he says.
Eric says it is a much more respectful way of life and something he describes as “the permanent yin and yang that is well known in China but I felt every where in Asia” and is “a great lesson for us westerners”.
Even the name of the park reflects the philosphy behind it.
In Persian, Pairi Daiza is the ancient word for paradise.
1) festivities: perayaan, acara, pesta
2) ambiance: suasana
3) monastery: biara
4) remains: sisa-sisa
5) cultural park: taman budaya
6) moulded: dibentuk
7) tension: ketegangan
8) oversees: mengawasi
9) laden: yang diisi
10) in the distance: dari jauh
01)What is the Ogoh-Ogoh festival and where was the largest one held outside of Bali?
02) Who and how many people came to the event?
03) Why was it held and who was the man behind it?
04) What other pavillions are there and what is the focus of this park?
05) Who oversees the park and what did he say about Asian and Western culture?