Bali is living culture rich in traditional and religious ceremonies. Everyday, the island is enriched with colorful and glittering rituals from temple anniversaries to wedding and death rituals; all become attractive for tourist consumption. But to carry out a ceremony, is indeed a complex business.
To hold a cremation for dead family members, especially those coming from wealthy and noble clans, involves all village members and cost from Rp.50 million (US$5,500) for a very modest ceremony to Rp.3 billion for lavish one.
“We just held a cremation for our father”, shared one who said that the two-week-long cremation ritual cost his family around Rp.500 million. “We did not view it as an extravagant event.
The ceremony, on the other hand, expressed our deep respect and affection toward our late father”. He said while admitting that it absorbed all family’s saving and financial resources.
But not all Balinese were as lucky as he and his family. Thousands of locals have to give up their properties-paddy fields, houses, plantations and cattle to hold such a ceremony.
I am as a High Hindu Priest, is deeply concerned over this worrying situation. I feel terrible realizing that many prosperous people in Bali could go bankrupt or drown in bad debts as they have to sell land for various ritual purposes. I identified there are number of factors that push Balinese into losing their properties.
The first factor deals with religious ceremonies. The second relates to the booming and lucrative tourism industry. The third, and worst one, was gambling.
From a religious point of view, a group of Hindu Priests and other influential leaders in Bali are presently working to simplify the once complicated and costly ceremonies to ease the burden on people.
We have to educate people of all levels that they don’t have to sell their lands and assets to hold excessive events. People should understand that luxury ceremony does not guarantee that the dead go to heaven, and simple ceremony will also take the dead to other side.
Another disturbing issue is gambling among the locals. It has become one of the most pressing reasons why people sell their properties.
Former Bali Chief of Police, issued a regulation banning gambling across Bali. “Gambling makes people poor and miserable”’ he once said. Hectares of lands and houses are sold to support up this negative habit.
Another significant factor that threatens land ownership in Bali is the boom of the tourism industry, which started during the 1970s. Rice fields and fertile land have been transformed into five-star hotels, boutique villas, and now apartments to accommodate the influx of both foreign and domestic visitors.
Bali receives around 1,5 million tourist annually generating millions of dollars in ‘revenue’. The island’s tourist industry absorbs 30 percent of the total human resources in Bali.
Tourism has drowned the Balinese agrarian society into the glittering tourism industry. Balinese people started to leave their paddy fields in the 1980’s to join the busy tourism industry.
It was also the beginning of the massive land conversions across the island. Many people sold their lands to investors, keeping only a small area of paddy fields or other crop cultivation. Bali annually sees a loss of around 1,000 hectares of paddy fields and fertile lands.
According to a study conducted by Bali’s Center for Agriculture Technology, the majority of Balinese farmer own less than 0.5 hectare paddy fields. “Working in the agricultural sector has become economically inefficient for many Balinese”, a farmer explained.
With such a small area of paddy field, he cannot produce enough rice even for his own family consumption. An agrarian society and its traditions, which began almost 1,000 years ago, are beginning to loose its ground.
“It is more beneficial (for farmers) to sell their paddy fields and deposit their money in the Bank rather than planting their paddy fields. The harvest is so insignificant” he said. As a consequence, the once prolific and fertile Bali now faces food insecurity.
Bali’s economy is so fragile. The island is too dependent on other areas for daily consumption. Every Balinese family has to carry out daily offering to worship the Gods and ancestors.
The offering usually have colorful flowers, fruits, rice, cakes, and some times chicken or duck meat beautifully packaged in young coconut leaf baskets. We don’t have enough fruits, young coconut leaves and poultry for our offering so we have to get them from Java, Lombok, and other islands.
A study conducted by Udayana University’s Forum for Research and Development in 2,000, showed every Hindu family in Bali spent, annually, Rp2.32 million on daily offerings. Bali has a population of 3.2 million, about 87 percent of the population are Hindu.
The study concluded that Balinese families spend around Rp.1.4 trillion a year for daily offerings exluding large scale ceremonies.
So what will happen ?