Balinese Traditional Color Philosophy : The Color of Life (Part 1)


What do the colors means by the Balinese People? certainly the answer will variable, but in philosophy, in Bali the color becomes a necessity in symbolize the religion elements or ritual relationing to God. If the color associated with the arts, the art of the Balinese is the breath of life. The whole life of the Balinese can’t be separated with the arts.
This unique philosophy and ritual is very rich with artwork and symbolism, that make Hindu religion in Bali is different from the Hinduism origin in India . In Bali the mixing of various philosophies (such as Taoism, Confuciusism, Buddhism, Tantric, Animism, Dynamism, etc) make Balinese Hindu religion getting rich with the philosophy, implemented by an unique ritual manifestation. Associated with the use of color, The Balinese using colors as symbols in all religious ritual that held, this proves that the Balinese people reached high level of public awareness in art.
Many Balinese Hindu religious rituals or religious teaching is represented with an interesting implementation which using color as symbolism. So in Bali the color as a media/symbol to learning the philosophy of Balinese Hindu Religion.
The following example:

1. ‘Poleng’ as ‘Rwa Bhineda’ (Dualism) Philosophy Representated
Poleng, or chessboard (black and white) pattern of alternating black and white squares is surely the most distinguished pattern of Balinese color on clothes. Since Poleng is the national color of Bali, it can be found virtually everywhere in the island. Poleng clothes are usually wound round the big tree trunks, big rocks, statues and shrines. Banners, flags, and umbrellas that are used in a procession of the ceremony sometimes made of ‘poleng’ clothes. ‘Poleng’ clothes are also used by the traditional Balinese security forces (Pecalang), poleng cloth is considered to be an obligatory part of Pecalang outfits. There is also a warrior dance (Baris) which is called Baris Poleng Dance. As its name suggests, the dancers’ Apparels consist predominantly of poleng clothes.
The chessboard pattern of alternating black and white squares of poleng signifies Balinese concept of Rwa bhineda, a Balinese view of the mutual dualism that make up the whole world. In other word, it is about two opposite thing that depend on each other to exist, such as day and night, low and high, dry and rainy season, bitter and sweet, black and white, etc. This ‘Rwa Bhineda’ philosophy quite similar with ‘Yin-Yang’ philosophy of Confuciusism or Taoism. Rwa Bhineda means ‘Rwa’ = “two” and ‘Bhineda’ = “differences / opposite”. Balinese believe that the balance of this mutual dualism will brings prosperity and peacefulness to the mankind. This concept of balance is Expressed perfectly by the poleng cloth – the number of white square is always equal with the black one (Sidarta Wijaya,

2. ‘Tri Datu’: The ‘Tri Murthi’ Symbolism
Tri Murthi is the God trinity concept of Balinese Hindu Religion. This concept was made by Danghyang Dwijendra at the Samuan Tiga Temple -Gianyar, when he unites all sects in Bali into Balinese Hinduism nowadays. Tri Murthi means ‘Tri’ = “three” and ‘Murthi’ = “realization of God”, so Tri Murthi means Three manifestations of God Almighty in accordance with his duties. Brahma as the Creator of life, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva as destroyer. In fact the whole (desa pekraman) village in Bali must have 3 temples are embracing the concept. Brahma worshiped at Bale Agung Temple, Vishnu at Puseh temple and Shiva at Dalem Temple.
Relation to Brahma, symbolized by red, Vishnu by black and Shiva with white color. A combination of three colors is called ‘Tri Datu’, is used in every religious ceremonies, buildings, and even used as a talisman for safety. Usually when used for amulets shaped bracelet made of yarn called ‘Benang Tri Datu’ yarn.
Tri Datu is not only attached to buildings or on religion ceremonies, but occasionally, the Balinese attach the threads to their bodies. Around the right wrist – a red thread, around the ankle – a black, and attached to the ear – the white. The use of the Tri Datu is to calm the mind so that it will not be influenced by negative thoughts. The threads can also be wound together around the right wrist or placed on the crown of the head. No matter how the Tri Datu is worn, the threads were placed or attached with prayers to endow the recipient with power, strength, and Longevity.
Those who still have full faith in the power of Tri Datu, use it to cure wounds. The colored threads being wrapped around the open wound directly on the skin as one would use a bandage. For the cremation ceremony (Ngaben), Tri Datu threads take on a new name when they become part of the ritual of ceremonial equipment, being then called (among other possible names) “long-lost” meaning long and lost, possibly because they are consumed in the fire.
Apart from the uses mentioned, on specific occasions Tri Datu is featured in the form of cloth and is worn as clothing by the original male inhabitants of a village. The black being worn as a shirt, the white as an under-skirt sarongs, and the red as an over-skirt. This dress is worn when a Villager is currently carrying out a ceremony at his own temple, or more generally, when the people celebrate “Hari Raya Nyepi” (a day when you must be quite, stay at home, not use any lights. Fires , machines, vehicles or electrical equipment.)
When the people wear dress Tri Datu, they are called “sambangan”. The word implies that they are awaiting a blessing or help from God. During the fifth and sixth months of the Balinese calendar, you are likely to see the Balinese Hindus wearing “Sikepan”.
This is just another form of Tri Datu, where the three colored threads are plaited tired and the ends together forming a necklace or bangle. Before it is worn it will have various items attached: old Chinese coins (the ones with the holes in the middle), small red onions, garlic cloves, ginger roots and other “Jangu” (medicinal plants and roots). Without the coins and “Jangu” mentioned, the plaited or entwined threads are not “Sikepan” and are, more often than not, merely intended as personal adornment. Sikepan is a symbolic marker of those asking God for a blessing and, more likely, protection from the bad spirits that infest the earth during the 5th and 6th months of the Balinese Calendar.
Each person seen wearing the “Sikepan” is also currently having a Cleans or Exorcism at his or her home to rid the area of bad spirits that cause problems. These exorcisms are called “Tilem” and will be held during the dangerous months mentioned (

3. Brumbun (Five colors) Symbolism of Lord Shiva
The Hindu religion teaching mainstream in Bali is Siwa Sidhanta, the main philosophy of this sect told that Siwa as a place of supreme god, and some even think that God Almighty is Siwa. According to the teachings of Shiva Sidhanta this universe is Siwa, so all the material things in this universe is the body of Siwa. Siwa in Bali symbolized by five color called Brumbun or Panca Warna (five-colored).
The color combination is represented in five colors (five color) are: Red (brahma), Black (Wisnu), white (Iswara), Yellow (Mahadeva) and Blue (Sambhu). This color-adjusted to the color in the ‘Rajah Nawa Sanga’. All this five color mixed together to become as bethara Siwa.
Application of this color is usually on the offerings made in accordance with these colors, such as caru manca warna (five-colored sacrifice), segehan manca warna (five-colored offerings) and my else. This color is also applied to the holy flag at large Religion on ceremonies or even a sacrifice chicken for the ritual purpose, must have five colored furs called Siap Brumbun.
4. ‘Nawa Sanga’ coloring scheme
Dewata Nawa Sanga or Nawa Dewata is nine rulers in every direction of the wind, in the of Hindu Dharma concept in Bali. Nine ruler Lord Shiva is surrounded by eight aspects ( Each god symbolized with certain colors and certain mystic specifications. See the following charts: (click to enlarge)

To be Continued…

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