Colourful colours of Bali

Colours of this beautiful island will bring a smile on your face and put you in a festive mood. Colourful sarongs, brightly hand painted scarves, waxed drawn Indonesian batiks and pink, orange and green colour dresses are everywhere!

For everyday street wear, the Balinese love bright colours and you will see a lot of bright red, purple or blue. That colour is also very popular if you give away things like towels or linen.

bali-pocket-011-october-2016_page92_image64If Balinese are wearing white it means they are attending a ceremony of cremation and white is also the colour of the priests. Usually, the head of the village determines what colour to wear for the ceremonies and that is why you will often see all the people dressed in the same shade. If you are attending a wedding, there is a colour code for the members of the family – like all the bridesmaids in Western culture wear the same dress.

But in philosophy, in Bali the colour symbolises the religion elements or ritual relations towards God. Poleng, or chessboard (black and white) pattern squares is surely the most distinguished pattern of Balinese colour on the clothes. Since Poleng is the national colour of Bali, it can be found virtually everywhere on the island. Poleng clothes are usually wound round the big tree trunks, big rocks, statues and shrines. “Poleng” clothes are also used by the traditional Balinese security forces (Pecalang) and it is considered to be an obligatory part of their outfits.

This pattern reflects Balinese concept of “Rwa bhineda” or mutual dualism that the whole world consists of – two opposite things that depend on each other to exist. “Tri Datu” or the “Tri Murthi” symbolism is also very important in colours and reflects God trinity concept of Balinese Hindu Religion. Relation to Brahma, symbolised by red, Vishnu by black and Shiva with white colour. A combination of three colours is called ‘Tri Datu’, and it is used in every religious ceremony. Balinese also attach the threads in those colours to their bodies. Around the right wrist a red thread, around the ankle a black one, and attached to the ear is the white thread. The purpose of the “Tri Datu” is to calm the mind so that it will not be influenced by negative thoughts.

bali-pocket-011-october-2016_page92_image63When people are dressed in colours of “Tri Datu” that is called “sambangan”. The word implies that they are waiting for a blessing or help from God. Brumbun or “Five Colours” symbolise Lord Shiva. The colour combination is red for Brahma, black for Wisnu, white for Iswara, yellow for Mahadeva and blue for Sambhu. These colours are usually mixed in the offerings for Gods.

That is why colours are not just colours on this island of Gods.■

Bali Pocket Magazine