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The Philosophy And Meaning Behind The Caru (Tawur Agung)

This year, Nyepi feast day or Saka New Year 1934 falls on Monday, March, 23, 2012. Tradition of this Balinese ancestral heritage possibly could not be encountered elsewhere or in the countries you know because on the Nyepi feast day, Bali suddenly become a serene island for 24 hours. From 06.00 up to 06.00 on the next day, all the Balinese activities come to stop. Market, shop, supermarket or stall is close and so do terminal of land, sea or air transportation, schools, universities.

As a consequence, streets will be freed from vehicles. Marine territory of Bali will be freed from ships and its sky free from aircrafts. Tourist objects and facilities across Bali will also be closed, so for 24 hour we should stay at our house, and tourists should stay at their hotel or guest house and can not make any excursion to tourist objects. Likewise, all dwellers of Bali should stay at home or sanctums to perform Catur Brata Nyepi, 4 kinds of spiritual activities, without using oblation and incense stick. In the evening, the atmosphere progressively grips one with fear as all lamps are turn off, either that on the streets, homes or hotels where visitors stay. How peaceful and quiet the island of Bali is that you will go through on Nyepi feast day.

Melasti procession
Melasti commences the procession of Nyepi feast day to sea. This ritual is equivalent to sincere gratitude expression to the Lord Varuna, one very prominence God in the Vedic scripture as god of waters who endowed the holly water of life without end. Similarly, the melasti ritual (in India is called yatra) signifies the purification of macrocosm (universe) and microcosm (human self). Sea represents the cleansing of impurities. Through this melasti procession, human being purifies its environment and themselves from any impurities, either those generated by mind, word, and deed. People frequently raise this question: why should the melasti procession be performed at sea? To Balinese people, sea has special connotation and constitutes a sacred location. In the plain view, if observed, seawater is always clear as inside the seawater occurs the life cycle and natural cleansing. According to a Balinese Hindu figure, Prof. Dr. I Gusti Ngurah Nala M.P.H., large and small fish discard organic waste matter and this is then perfectly decomposed by bacteria into organic product.

This product gets to be foodstuff and enables the life and flourishing of marine algae and plankton to become the food source of small fish. Meanwhile, small fish is the food source of larger fish. Dead body of large and small fish are broken apart into food source of algae and plankton. Thus the life cycle transpires perfectly in the mid of the sea so the purity and clarity stay will maintained stay well maintained. Maintaining the purity and cleanliness of the seawater persistently, to Hindus, is equally important to maintaining the purity and survival of human beings. In the pastime, ancestor of the Hindus stipulated the ocean as the wellspring of immutable holy water to purify all impurities of the world and human life.

The Mahabharata epic put an infix of “the whirling of Mandaragiri mount” where the Gods should attempt to stir the milky ocean by whirling a mountain in order to obtain the Tirtha Amrita (holy water of immortality). So thus Bhima, second brother of Pandava that should dive into the bottom of the sea to meet Lord Ruci (Varuna) to invoke such holy water. Sublime value that is worth quoting from this story is of course by clear mind genuine heart to work hard, human being will arrive at bliss and life prosperity.

Caru (Tawur Agung)
Having undertaken the melasti procession, it’s resumed with the Caru or Tawur Agung or Tawur Kasanga, Thursday, March 22, 2012 coinciding with the Tilem (the last day of the dark moon, according do Balinese calendar). In India, this day is called  Caitra Amavasya. Tawur Kasanga (grand exorcism rite) is carried out at midday when the sun is over the head, aroud 12.00 at the heart of city, customary village (is called Desa Pakraman) throughout Bali consisting of some 1,300 units. For Denpasar city, it usually held at the Puputan Badung Square (city centre) in front of Jagatnatha temple.

There are also some village performing it in the afternoon, in compliance with the local tradition inherited through generations. For instance, at Kuta Customary Village, the Tawur Kasanga procession is held in the afternoon at the cross road heading for Kuta Beach atu around 15.00. Should you intend to relish sunset at that time, you’d better see this procession first to enrich your holiday experience.

Tawur Kasanga denotes a symbol of human effort to bring back balance and harmony of universe along with its entire contents. Hinduism delivers guidance to human being in order they conserve its balance. In other word, it is appealed not to exploit the natural resources greedily exceeding the necessity. The environment destruction and air pollution affects the ozone layer, the terrestrial shield, to increasingly become less and less, even some have got perforated caused by human being deeds that are unable to care for the environmental conservation and harmony of nature.

Caru (Tawur Agung), with one minor exception, are blood sacrifices – an animal, or animals, must be killed. Killing an animal in this way is not considered cruelty. When an animal is killed in a sacrifice, it acquires karma, enough, perhaps, to allow it to be reincarnated at higher level. The body is not important to the Hindu faithful. It is shell. Any animal that is killed for a sacrifice is always treated with great reverence. Offerings are made to it. Mantra  are recited, asking for an improved status in the next life. An animal cannot be sacrificed without these prayer and offerings.

Hindu philosophers believe in a chain of existence, a circle from human to animal and back. Animal and human honor and respect one another. In a sense, when a human sacrifices an animals he is sacrificing himself, particularly his passions. It is an attempt to kill one’s evil characteristics. One cannot properly pray, sembahyang, unless one’s mind is first cleared of negative thoughts. It is quite common among Balinese I know to avoid going to a temple and praying, even at important ceremony, if their minds are occupied with negative feeling. To clear the mind of these evil thoughts that obstruct the pathway toward the Devas (Gods), one should make a sacrifice to appease the negative forces that are providing the opposition. This is why caru usually precedes the main part of the ceremony. Such a ceremony may be quite minor, such as a tooth filing or other rite passage. Or it may be much larger – the purification of a new building or a new temple complex. The size of the caru is adjusted accordingly.

The very smallest caru is the segehan. Word sege means rice. There are several of segehan offerings, but the most common is the ituk-ituk, built on triangular cup of folded coconut leaf, each side no more than about five centimeters in length. The segehan is only kind of caru that need not necessarily have blood or meat in it. The tray must always contain a small slice of onion, bawang, and ginger, jahe. The onion is “cold” and the ginger “hot”. They are opposites, reminding the Bhutas and Kalas that a balance is sought. Segehan are commonly placed on the ground in the front of gate to the house compound so that Bhutas and Kalas will feed no urge to venture  further inside.

Other than the basic segehan, the smallest caru is the caru eka sata, which require one brumbun (all colors), white black chicken, placed at a base of a sanggah cucuk (temporary triangular pavilion made of split bamboo). The offering includes a number of other ingredients, but only one animal need be sacrificed. This caru is usually used in the dedication-purification ceremony for a new building, called melaspas. Eka sata is also commonly performed the day before tooth filing.

Next in scale is the caru panca sata, which requires five chickens of different colors, representing the four cardinal points – white (east/Isvara), red (south/Brahma), yellow (west/Mahadeva), black (north/Visnu), and brumbun (all colors/center/Siva). There must also be a sanggah cucuk for each chicken. This size of caru is normally used for the ceremony held at the village cross roads jus before Nyepi, Saka New Year’s Day. The temple festivals for some of the larger temples will also include a caru panca sata.

Next is the caru panca kelud, which includes the five chickens plus a dog of the color the Balinese call blangbungkem, or bangbungkem. These dogs have a black snout and red brown body. Such a color symbolic of Rudra, the wild and stormy aspect of Siva, and thus the dog is always put in the southwestern corner of the caru enclosure, Rudra’s direction.

Larger still is the caru rsi gana, requiring the same animals as the panca kelud plus one white duck (northeast). As number of animals sacrificed increases, so does the number of other offerings and trappings. The next in scale is the caru vrihaspati kalpa, which involves all the above plus one goose (southeast).

The most elaborate caru of all is called taur or tawur, which literary means “pay”, perhaps in the sense of an extortion payment to the Bhutas and Kalas as the aspects kroda (angry) of Gods. A caru tawur (sometimes called Tawur Agung) is truly a titanic undertaking and reserved for only the most important occasion. These include the yearly ceremony called Tawur Kasanga, at Besakih, the large ceremony held on the day before Nyepi, on the date of dark moon in the ninth lunar month, Tilem (amavasya) Kasanga. In addition to the above animals these tawur require a goose (east), a goat (south), a cow (west), a water buffalo (north), and a black pig (center).

Still pertaining to Tawur Kasanga, right on s andhyakala (nightfall) is performed the Ngerupuk, surounding the house compound by bringing a torch, making sounds, spitting house corner with chewing meswi (massola aromatica) spice. Significance of this rite is to neutralize the power of nature so all house indwellers can live peacefully and quietly. Furthermore at the level of customary village, the sekaa taruna (village youth club)  shoulder an ogoh-ogoh (papier mache demon) en masse along the village.

Shape of is made is such artistic way and shows off the amazing art creativity. Expenses for this may reach tens million Indonesian Roepiah, which acquired through voluntary donation. The splendour of this ogoh-ogoh parade implies to bring back the Bhutakala (evil spirit) to their respective abode, so they would not tease the human life any longer.

Essential meaning of the Ngerupuk ritual is that the human beings are led to control their demonic character affixed on themselves. Series of Tawur Kasanga and Ngerupuk  are symbol to reach the Bhutahita or Jagadhita (harmony and prosperity of the universe together with its beings). In the midst of social conflict killing many lives and taking treasures as well as the damage of the environment around the globe at this time, the Tawur Kasanga and Ngerupuk have crucial and exceptional meaning.

Significance of Nyepi
The Nyepi feast day is marked by undertaking Brata Nyepi (Brata Penyepian) that meaning abstinence during the Nyepi. The Balinese enter a serene moment, perfectly silent. As mentioned in the palm-leaf manuscript Sundarigama, devotees should perform the abstinences consisting of amati geni (lighting no fire), amati karya (no working), amati lelungan (no traveling), and amati lelanguan (no relishing any entertainment). Since they concentrate on those abstinences, Bali Island automatically turns totally silent, just like an uninhabited island. In the evening, it’s absolutely dark. Similarly, its ambience is so quiet and pollution-free.

Essentially, amati geni denotes a guidance to empty out the emotion by controlling the passion of senses as taught in the Sarasamuccaya. “As mattes of fact, senses are assumes a heaven or hell, if one is capable of controlling it, it’s called heaven and if she or he is not, it’s just like a hell”. In the Mahabharata epic is told about the King Duryodhana and his cronies who unable to control their passion are ultimately trapped in the civil war conflict until they are killed in the Bharatayudha warfare. The fire of passion to struggle for the throne and an attempt to dominate the truth amongst the world leaders should also be controlled to make this world peaceful and filled with brotherhood.

Meanwhile, the amati karya or doing no activities primarily means guidance for self-introspection, contemplation towards all deeds performing during the last year. Every body should consider, separate or determine the bad and good of a deed, as whatever deed one performs will surely bear a fruit (effect), it would be lucky if the proceeds are good and could make the people prosperous. The Sarasamuccaya also reminds us that one would be renowned as a descendant with noble character in terms of the proceeds of his or her work for the sake of public interest, not of what he or she has taken from nature just for self-interest.
Amati lelungan and amati lelanguan also make people aware in order they are not easily tempted by hedonistic life style. Qualities like unserious, extravagant, and jealous of seeing others’ progress and self-satisfaction should be avoided, as it’s contradictory to the miserable condition of countries all over the world-chiefly the third countries.

Ngembak Geni Day
One day after Nyepi  is called Ngembak Geni, where Balinese break their fasting, discontinue the four abstinences and enter the Saka New Year 1929. Life activities are started with newly atmosphere and gusto.  This day, Hindu Balinese visits their family for Dharma Santi (for more close of our brotherhood) and also visit some tourist resorts, beach, water spring, mountain or go to temples for praying. (Prof. Dr. I Made Titib, Chairman of  Tri Hita Karana Nugraha Assesor)


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