Sabtu, 19 Desember 2009

Nusa Dua’s Puja Mandala

Nusa Dua's Puja MandalaA cluster of houses of worship representing all of Indonesia's religions can be seen on a scenic hilltop close to Nusa Dua. This two-hectare slice, known as Puja Mandala (the domain of worship), is home to a Buddhist temple, a Hindu temple, a Catholic Church, a Protestant Church and an Islamic mosque. This complex bears witness to Indonesia's unique constitution, known as Pancasila, that gives equal status to each of the country's religions. Created in the early years of Indonesia's independence, the state code is depicted by five symbols on the national coat of arms, the central one being the star, the symbol of religious belief, though the religion is not specified.

Dubbed as the 'Hill of Prayer', Puja Mandala is also probably unique in global terms since, although one finds major cities with an array of houses of worship belonging to various faiths, it is very rare to find so many different ones check by jowl. What makes it all the more surprising - and indeed is part of its charm – is its non- urban setting overlooking the sparkling sands of Sanur beach and the bustling harbour of Benoa.It is definitely worth a visit.

The idea to build the complex came about in the early 1990s, after the construction of several international-chain hotels in the enclave resort of Nusa Dua. The actual development of the 'Hill of Prayer', however, did not start until 1995, and coincided with the boom in Bali's tourism industry. During this upsurge, the need for places of worship for both visitors and migrant workers to the area was increasingly felt. Long renowned as a Hindu island in a sea of Muslims, Bali was rapidly becoming religiously cosmopolitan. The Bali Tourism Development Corporation (BTDC), the owner of the Nusa Dua Resort complex, donated the land and the various religious communities shared the development costs. It took around two years to build and was opened to the public with great ceremony in 1997.

In addition to being an expression of Indonesia's religious tolerance, there are at least two practical reasons for the development of the complex. The first is related directly to tourists of different denominations requiring a place to pray, a pressing concern given the fact that Nusa Dua often hosts major international conferences that draw in visitors from just about everywhere. To match the profile of its hotels, Nusa Dua needed something of quality to satisfy the religious needs of an increasingly diverse visitor profile. The development of Puja Mandala was considered to be an ideal solution and in providing such diverse spiritual facilities Nusa Dua's profile was raised as a resort that catered for everybody, whatever their country of origin or religious persuasion.

The other reason is related to the Nusa Dua community itself. The growth of Nusa Dua as tourism resort drew in large numbers of people who moved to live in the surrounding area, most of them working in tourism-related industry. Housing complexes have also mushroomed in the areas of Nusa Dua, the Bukit and Jimbaran to the south and west, and the religious needs of these migrants needed addressing. These people not only reflected Indonesia's religious diversity, but they also included expatriates who followed a variety of different faiths. Puja Mandala was built to satisfy both the needs of the resort's diverse visitors and its equally varied migrant worker community.

Nusa Dua's Puja MandalaIn addition to these practical reasons, the development of Puja Mandala was designed to showcase Bali's tolerance and multicultural character. The Balinese have long been known as a peace loving people characterized by harmonious relations among the different ethnic and religious groups living on the island. People of different faiths live side by side, taking care of one another. Visitors may come across a Buddhist ritual procession or festivity guarded by a combined force of Buddhist youths and the local Hindu security team known as pecalang. By encouraging the members of different faiths to worship in buildings in a united complex, Puja Mandala promotes the Balinese spirit of mutual understanding.

It is through being tolerant that the Balinese have been able to maintain peace and harmony, a prerequisite for a successful tourism industry that welcomes all comers. A lot has been written about how tourism has encouraged the Balinese to be proud of their culture, especially their visual arts, performing arts and handicrafts. It should also be added, however, that tourism also enhances the Balinese people's awareness of the importance of maintaining peace and harmony. With so many other destinations to choose from these days, the modern tourist is more likely to opt for places in which they feel secure and welcome. Thus, the ongoing promotion of tolerance not only creates harmony among the different community members but also helps sustain tourism, one of the major wellsprings of the island's prosperity.

The encouragement of tolerance is also supported through a forum that brings together the different religious groups to promote inter-faith awareness. This organization was established in both district and provincial level and religious leaders from all the major Indonesian faiths sit as members of the forum. They run regular meeting to discuss cultural and religious to encourage and facilitate inter-faith worship from time to time, and to act as guardians of Bali's inter-cultural harmony. The combination of Puja Mandala and this inter-faith forum represent a working system of how tolerance among the different communities of Bali and enacted in daily life.

Nusa Dua's Puja MandalaIt is often said that Bali is a unique island easily distinguishable from the others in the archipelago. Much attention has been devoted to the specific religious and Hindu-based cultural identity attached to the island's main community. In reality, Bali is a multi-ethnic society and has long been so. To appreciate this point one only has to descend from Puja Mandala to the nearby charming settlement of Tanjung Benoa where long established mosques built by Makasar seafarers and Buddhist shrines erected by Chinese migrants sit alongside the familiar Balinese temples.



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