I was looking forward to what lay in store for me on the ‘Island of Gods’–an apt attribution for Bali. The thought of pristine blue waters, magnificent beaches, rugged coastlines, dense volcanic hills and picturesque rice paddies lifted my spirits.
About an hour’s drive from the airport is Ubud, the spiritual and cultural centre of Bali. This quaint town is known for therapeutic healing. The very name Ubud is derived from the Balinese word Ubad, meaning medicine. Traditional healers or Balians, as they are called in Balinese, use medicinal herbs and ancient practices to heal patients. After all, nature is God’s own pharmacy. Since I had been experiencing chronic body aches, I decided to take a healing session with a Balian.
At the entrance of his house, was a shrine dedicated to the Hindu God Ganesha. It was decorated with fresh flowers and coconut. The compound wall and the main door were adorned with ornate carvings. This reminded me of a temple back home in India. As I stepped in, a garden with colourful flowers, climbers and fountains welcomed me. I was in awe.
The healer and his wife, an old couple, invited me in. Though they understood very little English, their hospitality spoke volumes. After what seemed to be a visual scan of my aura, the healer took me to the treatment room. The tranquil space, heady incense and fragrant flowers were calming. He gave me a bitter herbal concoction, which I reluctantly swallowed in a gulp. As I laid down, the healer recited a short prayer before commencing the acupressure treatment. “Too much stress and emotional blocks,” he commented, finishing up.
Since childhood, I have been grateful to plants and trees for what they contribute to life on this planet. Maybe that is why nature worship in Bali caught my attention more than anything else.
The next day, I woke up with an inexplicable surge of energy. I was all set to explore Ubud. At one end of the town was the Monkey Forest and the Goa Gajah Temple, and the Puri Saren Palace and the market on the other. While the temple and the palace exemplified the grandeur of the Balinese architecture, the Ubudian market reflected the humble lives of the Balinese people.
A casual conversation with a vendor in the market got me to explore a few offbeat places. I visited a village where most of the homes were made of bamboo. These dwellings seamlessly merged with the surrounding Ayung Valley, as if in a painting. It is rightly called the Green Village. After spending the entire afternoon there, I set off to Campuhan Ridge hike, a nature trek. The walk uphill was tiring, but the cool breeze made up for it.
I have always considered nature to be a selfless giver. Since childhood, I have been grateful to plants and trees for what they contribute to life on this planet. Maybe that is why nature worship in Bali caught my attention more than anything else.
I visited Penglipuran, a village showcasing Balinese culture. Upon arriving there, I saw women weaving small palm-leaf baskets, filling them with flowers and topping them with incense sticks. They stuck grains of rice on a banana leaf and placed these offerings before a moss-covered deity. It was fascinating to see a god covered in moss. It was as if the god was nature, and nature god.
Bali may be known for its tourist attractions, but to me it stood out as an epitome of nature worship. Albert Einstein had once said: “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Perhaps, Balinese live and breathe by this philosophy.