What makes Kecak dance, also called fire dance, most unique of Balinese dances is that unlike in other dance forms, it is not accompanied by any musical instruments; instead you have a chorus of several men providing sound effects. The name Kecak (the sound of c in the word is that of ch in chair) derives from the cak-cak sound made by the chorus. Watching Kecak dance was in our agenda. Hence Uluwatu was our destination on that first evening in Bali. It seems Uluwatu is made up of two words, ‘ulu’ which means ‘land’s end’ and ‘watu’ meaning ‘rock’. Pura Luhur Uluwatu is regarded as one of the six most important temples in Bali. The sight of the temple on top of the cliff is breathtakingly beautiful. Situated as it is on the south westernmost of the island, it is supposed to guard the Balinese from the evil spirits of the ocean.
Before we could reach the temple, we had to contend with a traffic snarl. It is the same thing wherever we go in the world, right? This time around, the reason was an underpass being constructed. The traffic just crawled when it was not totally stationary for long periods of time. The BIL got mighty pissed off at the delay. But we made it past the worst of it before long and then were free to move faster ahead. The road was excellent and made for a very smooth ride. I couldn’t help but think ruefully of the pothole ridden roads back in India. The greenery was amazing and reminded me of Kerala, the same plants and shrubs, the same trees too.
Arjun, our driver was a gregarious chap. He was mighty thrilled that we were familiar with who Arjun, his namesake and the original from the Mahabharat was. It turned out that the Arjun of the present was a die-hard Bollywood fan. He rattled off names: Shahrukh Khan, Abhishek Bacchan, Sridevi, Aishwarya Rai…. and even sang the song Kuch kuch hota hai. It caused a moment of mirth when he sang it as ‘Kuch kuch kuta hai.’ Arjun had a good heart laugh when the BIL told him ‘kuta’ actually meant dog. While about to reach Uluwata, Arjun warned us of the aggressive monkeys that snatch sunglasses and other such items off tourists. So we carefully put away mobiles and glasses and I hung on to my precious camera for dear life.
Before entering the temple premises we had to tie a sash (either purple or yellow) around our waist. Those in shorter attires used a sarong of the same colors. As we walked down the slope the first view of the sea, the setting sun, the cliff and the temple took my breath away. It was so beautiful that I wanted to spend time simply gazing at it all. But the Kecak dance had already begun by the time we reached and so we rushed so as not to miss it.
More about Kecak dance: According to the paper we were handed out, Kecak is an adaptation of an ancient ritual ceremony called ‘Sanghyang’ which was held to purify a village during an epidemic. In this ceremony, two young girls went into a trance and communicated with the spirits to find cause and cure to the problem. Sanghyang was always accompanied by a chorus of men chanting in much the same way as in Kecak. In the present form, Kecak incorporates into it episodes of traditional Wyang Wong (masked drama) which deals with parts of the epic Ramayana. It is to be noted that the chorus not mere accompaniment to the action, but the action itself. It is at times the trees in the forest, the helpers of Ravana, the magic circle that protects Sita, allies of Garuda and so on.
To watch a small clip I made that shows Jatayu trying to rescue Sita and fighting Ravana, click here. Below are some of the pictures from the dance:
That’s Ravana, king of Alengka (Sri Lanka) as the Balinese call it. He interacted with the crowd and along with the demons, made us laugh.
This is Trijata, the kindly demon who guards Sita in Ravana’s garden.
Here is Sita waiting for Rama to come and rescue her.
The demons making merry and dancing with some among the audience
Anoman (Hanuman) who comes to Alengka looking for Sita, with a message from Rama, gave lighter moments to the audience too with his antics.
but also chased the demons around the arena making people laugh.
The closing dance.
and we were off to Gangga, a seafood restaurant. It was too early and none of us hungry enough to do justice to food just then. So though the cook tried to tempt us with the fare, we decided to go back to the resort and have a late dinner.
Then there was the next day…. but that comes later.
For more pictures click here.