Text and photos by Darma Putra
At least four times a year visitors to Bali will bear witness to cars and motorbikes cruising the streets of the island decorated with ‘sampian’ and ‘lamak’ – offerings made of young coconut leaves and fl owers. The decorations mark that the cars and motorbikes have been blessed through ceremonious rituals.
Such rituals take place on Kuningan and Tumpek Landep, both ‘pawukon’ days based on the Balinese lunar calendar that fall every six months (210 days). While ceremonies held on Kuningan are part of the great Hindu holiday of Galungan, a day in celebration of the glory of good against evil, thus not in connection with vehicles.
Ceremonies held on Tumpek Landep day are uniquely held to bless metallic objects, including cars, motorbikes, and machinery. The rituals aim to honor Sang Hyang Pasupati, Lord of Heirlooms, for the creation of steel goods. Tumpek Landep day falls twice this year, on Saturday, 4th March, and on Saturday 30th September. While the word ‘tumpek’ means a particular day on a Saturday in the Balinese lunar calendar and the word ‘landep’ in Balinese means ‘sharp’. People who were born on Tumpek Landep day are believed to have sharp minds and brains.
Initially, Tumpek Landep was a day of rituals given to specifi c sharp tools made of steel like weapons, ‘tombak’ (spear) and ‘keris’ (a traditional wavy double-bladed dagger). Both ‘keris’ and ‘tombak’ are symbolically used by temples during festivals and processions. Keris is also an essential tool used in the performing arts. Almost all male dancers representing a hero or the upper class have a keris across their backs and use it as a weapon during a war or fi ght.
Visitors who watch ‘Keris and Barong Dances’, one of the most popular tourist performances, will see how the armies of the destructive power of Rangda (an evil fi gure) use keris in trying to stab their opponent, Barong (representing good). With his magical powers, Barong, who symbolizes positive powers, hypnotizes the armies. The armies then go into trance and stab themselves and their leader Rangda, instead of Barong. The stab causes them no harm at all, and a priest is required to bring them out of trance.
Keris is also symbolically important for Balinese families although not all possess one. Like male dancers, grooms usually wear a keris across their backs during wedding ceremonies. In the now rare case of an absent groom at the marriage ceremony, due to unresolved clan differences, a bride is married to a keris as a representation of the groom.
Some people also collect keris for a hobby. A group of keris collectors whose members come from Java and Bali often hold keris exhibitions and seminars in Denpasar.
The modern-day interpretation of keris in both day-to-day life as well as Balinese tradition makes the ritual of Tumpek Landep highly anticipated. The ceremony aims not only to honor the Lord of Heirlooms and to revitalize the magical powers of the metallic tools, but also symbolizes the sharpening of the owner’s heart and mind.
Today, ceremonies on Tumpek Landep are extended to ritualize all objects made of metal, including cars, motorbikes, trucks, computers, televisions, digital cameras and machinery. Machinery, vehicles, and other goods are washed and cleaned prior to the ceremony. Transport companies who own several cars or buses, printing companies, rice-milling factories and all other factories normally close operations on Tumpek Landep day.
Metallic objects are blessed through quite a large ceremony with elaborate offerings; perhaps completed with the sharing of a suckling pig, the ultimate show of a successful ceremony. The goals are the same; on one hand, Lord Pasupati is honoured and on the other hand, operational functions are maintained, thus helping day-to-day usage.
People also believe that a lack of ceremonies could cause the metallic objects to malfunction. Therefore, the Balinese usually perform a ‘melaspas’ ceremony for every new metallic object before its use or operation. During the ceremony, it is hoped that the Gods will bless the objects as well as their users. In the recent past, a jumbo jet at Bali Ngurah Rai airport was even witnessed being ritualized before starting to serve a new international route! However, ceremonies of small metal goods or big machinery such as trucks continue to be held every Tumpek Landep and on holy days such as Kuningan.
Beliefs and Traditions
The inclusion to the Tumpek Landep ceremony of offerings to machinery and other steel, iron and metallic modern products suggests at least two interrelated points. Firstly, it reflects the flexibility of the Balinese’s beliefs and traditions. The Balinese’s beliefs and traditions have proven to be adaptable and relevant to modern life. Some may not feel safe in operating new engines or driving new cars without first given them a blessing ceremony. Others may believe that accidents in the operation of an engine or the driving of a car may be caused by carelessness during a ceremony on Tumpek Landep. This belief remains strong in modern day Bali. This is a noticeable point as ceremonies on Tumpek Landep have become more and more elaborate over time. This practice further suggests that the more modern the Balinese the more traditional they become.
Secondly, the significant meaning of the Tumpek Landep ceremony resides on its goal to sharpen people’s minds and hearts, as they are the ultimate users of technology. This supports the message of a proverb that says ‘man is behind the gun’. Therefore, the functions of technological products eventually rely on the usage of the people who operate them. Consequently, in order to ensure the proper, safe, and wise use of weapons, machines, vehicles, and other metallic appliances, the mind and heart of the user needs to be foremost and continuously revitalized. The Balinese try to uphold this revitalization every Tumpek Landep day.
Tumpek Wariga and Tumpek Kandang
In addition to Tumpek Landep, the Balinese also celebrate a special day for trees known as Tumpek Wariga and a day for live-stock known as Tumpek Kandang, of which both fall at different times every six months (210 days) during the Balinese lunar calendar. On the auspicious day for trees, offerings are made to fruit trees, palm trees, and gardens, while on the auspicious day for live-stock, offerings are given to chickens, pigs, and other live-stock.
While the aim of the ceremonies on Tumpek Landep is for the well being and productive use of technological products, the aim in celebrating the auspicious days for plants and live-stock is to ensure the growth of flora and fauna, so they can be successfully cultivated for the prosperity of humanity. These two celebrations are less likely to be observed as they are held in family compounds and farms. The celebration of Tumpek Landep is more visible as cars on the street are decorated with the aforementioned sampian and lamak.
Day of Technology
As Tumpek Landep is a ceremony held for metal goods and other post modern appliances, and with the adaptability that the Balinese show when coping with modernity, Tumpek Landep day could also be known as Tumpek Technology or the Day of Technology in the near future, something that Balinese might inspire the world to celebrate!
Source: Hello Bali Magazine, publication details is not available.