Sabtu, 23 Agustus 2008

Ornamentation and Iconography in Balinese Temples

Balinese temple are enlivened by a variety of stone sculpture and relief which to the Western eye have an almost baroque or rococo quality. The original inspiration for many of the statues and motifs may have come from India, but everywhere they have been subjected to strong local influences which over centuries have given rise to a uniquely Balinese artistic tradition.
The basic material used for stone carving is a soft volcanic sandstone, or tuff, which has a very plastic quality and lends itself well to being shaped by the stone mason`s chisel. Equally, it deteriorates fairly rapidly when exposed to the elements and Balinese temples are in a constant process of renovation and renewal.
A Balinese Iconography
One of the most striking images in Balinese temples is the face of a leering monster, which lolling tongue, bulging eyes and ferociously large canines, which is typically found over the monumental gateway (kori agung) leading to the innermost courtyard. This demonic visage is the face of the bhoma, whose fearful countenance is intended to drive away malevolent influences the temple precincts.
Less important locations are augmented with karang bintulu-a monstrous single eye which stares unblinkingly over a dental arcade of upper teeth with extended canines. This motif is typically surmounted by an image of a mountain-a representation of the legendary Mount Meru which stands at the centre of the Hindu-Buddhist universe and is identified in Indian mythology as the abode of the gods.
Corner motifs include karang curing, which are composed by the upper part of a bird`s beak with a single eye and jagged teeth, or as an alternative, karang asti, the jawless head of an elephant. When the Mexican artist and author Miguel Covarrubias, who lived in Bali during the 1930s, asked why these images lacked a lower mandible, he was told that this was because they did not have t o eat solid food. Covarrubias comments:”This is, in my opinion, a typically Balinese wisecrack and not an indication of any such symbolic meaning”
Other decorative motif include border designs (patra) of which there are several kinds. The type known as patra olanda might have been inspired by Dutch sources, while the pattern known as patra cina, indicates Chinese origins.
Padmasana shrines and meru are typically decorated with geometric or foliate motifs, while the carvings or pavilions may include representations of animals and mythological beasts, or even the gods themselves.
The most important images are reserved for the walls and gateways for they divide the sacred precincts of the temple from the profane, secular world outside. Especially significant in this last respect are the reliefs which adorn the free-standing wall, or aling-aling, which is placed just behind the kori agung gateway as one enters the innermoust courtyard in the temple complex. The latter typically sports a rogues` gallery of demons and ogres who are intended to deter malevolent influences from penetrating the inner sanctum.



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