Chapter 4

Origin and ritual exchange as transformative belonging in the Balinese temple

Arlette Ottino


Introduction: cultural notions of origin

This chapter explores how sentiments of belonging to a group, in the village of Trunyan in Bali, are linked to references to origin and are enacted through participation in collective activities and rituals. These references to origin are inherently represented in communal actions and shared participation in rituals, thus enhancing a sense of belonging. Yet, belonging appears more closely defined by a shared identity with the group itself as social entity, rather than by belonging to territory and landscape, although the natural environment does provide original features through which cosmologies are derived. In Bali, the awareness of origin is sustained almost exclusively in rituals to which members of the group have an obligation to participate. The relation between origin, ritual participation and the construction of sentiments of belonging from which the Balinese derive their social identity is historically complex, and it is further complicated (for the anthropologist) by the Balinese’s apparent lack of interest in the past (Bateson 1970), and their culturally-specific understanding of the concept of origin.

Origin (kawitan, kamimitan) refers to the notion of beginning, as cause and source of present life. It is also equated with what is considered higher (than human), the sacred, the all-encompassing, that which pertains to the sky and, consequently, the divine (luhur, kelangitan). If it is, indeed, the source of life, it is so in a concrete yet also metaphorical sense, as expressed through the exchange of sustenance believed to take place between deity and worshippers during rituals in the temples. 1 This notion of origin includes (real or putative) descent and ancestry, residential space, the land and its resources, and past happenings which have permanently transformed the composition of the group and/or its socio-political context and, thereby, its present identity. Notions of

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