Conservative innovation in Balinese religion: a case study of highland Bali
(University of Melbourne)
Paper short abstract:
A great ritual of world renewal was held at Bali’s most ancient spiritual sanctuary by an indigenous minority. Through this high-level ritual, the former state temple regained the patronage of a regent after a 600-year lapse. Revitalization thus may use innovation to advance conservative agendas.
Paper long abstract:
A series of extraordinary events culminated in 2010 in the celebration of an eleven-day ritual of world renewal at Bali's most ancient spiritual sanctuary, attracting more than one hundred thousand participants. This temple is located in the misty highlands of the island, home to an indigenous ethnic minority group, the Bali Aga. The celebration marked an astonishing renewal. The scale of the sacrifice was much greater than it is in the normal, annual temple festival, symbolising that a new 'king' had come to be associated with this ancient state temple after a lapse of more than six hundred years. Indeed, it was largely by celebrating this almost forgotten, high-level ritual that a member of the temple's Bali Aga congregation managed to install himself as the new ruler of the entire regency of Bangli, within which the temple is located. Political liberalisation and decentralisation of the Indonesian state, from 1998 onward, has brought autonomy to the regions and triggered a tsunami of such revitalisation efforts. My aim in this paper is to show how these local movements shed light on a broader late modern phenomenon of cultural revitalisation, which has become an important trend with the advent of globalisation not just in Bali and in Indonesia but worldwide. Such movements often respond to a long history of poor governance or exclusion of ethnic minority groups from the political process of modern nation states. Their agenda is conservative, but nonetheless based firmly on cultural innovation.
Religious trends toward intimacy and revolution