Written by a Baliness historian this volume traces the long journey of images of the goddess Durga within India in the 1st millennium Ce and then the long evolution of these images in java and Bali Beginning c.700 CE in the Early Mataram kingdom of ancient Java. In Addition to being a historical study this volume also document the author’s personal journey. Raised in a rural village of Bali, the author experienced images of Durga as an awe-inspiring and terrifying goddess renowned as the patroness of the black arts. During a two-year period of work and study in India (2001-2003) the author was exposed to images of the goddess Durga that depict her as a beautiful warrior goddess who protects the community of her worshippers. This work grows out of the author’s experience of seeking to understand the historical factors that led to the stark contrast of images of Durga that we see when comparing contemporary India and Bali.
Dr. Ariati first traces the development of images of Durga in the “great” and Little” traditions of India, calling attention especially to the evidence of the markandeya Purana for a movement of myths about the goddess from north to south India. She then traces the development of unique” Javanese panthe on”that includes images of Durga as a goddess who presides over the northern direction and pr9otects the kingdom and reigning monarch from danger. Dr. Ariati then draws on the evidence of the Javanese exorcistic text Sudamala and reliefs illustrating this work at Candi tigawangi, a temple constructed c. 1406 CE by a branch of the Majapahit dynasty.Nothing that this is the starting point for depictions of demonic forms of Durga in Java, Dr. Ariati calls attention to the special role played by a male authority figure who exorcizes a demonic form of the goddess Durga and returns her to her benign form as the goddess Uma, or Parvati. Dr. Ariati traces the further development of this exorcistic theme in the Calon rang tale of Bali and images of the “divine witch” Rangda. She concludes her study by drawing parallels between the demonization of female images in myth and ritual and a campaign of disinformation that led to the destruction of Indonesia’s first women’s movement during the tumultuous early years of the New Order government.
The author makes frequent use of texts in the Old Javanese and Balinese languages that enrich her historical study by introducing themes common to Balinese understanding of Durga that she groups in terms of the three roles of goddess in creation (utpatti), preservation (sthiti) and dissolution (Pralina)
About the Author
Dr. Ni Wayan Pasek Ariati is the Academic Director of the SIT Study Abroad Program: Indonesia-Arts, Religion and Social Change. She completed her doctoral studies at Charles Darwin University of the Northern Territory, Australia with a dissertation in history studying changing representations of the goddess Durga between India, Java and Bali. Her work with Javanese and Balinese communities who are the hosts for the SIT Study Abroad Program in Indonesia allows her to develop her research interests at the same time that she is able to introduce North American students to the rich cultural traditions and welcoming society of contemporary Indonesia.
Dr. Ariati has served in the past as a Lecturer in Indonesian language form the SIT Program in Indonesia (1992-1996) and for Charles Darwin University (1996-1999). In summer 1996 she served as the Fulbright lecturer in Indonesian for the Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute (SEASS) at Arizona State University. Her published articles include "Theodicy in Paradise" (South and Southeast Asia Culture and religion, the SSEASR Journal, Vol III, (June 2009).
The work you have in your hands is a historical study of the development of images of the goddess Durga in a journey that began in India and continued to Java and Bali. It is also the story of my journey and experiences while writing this book, so I will begin with a little bit about my life story. I was born in a farming village in the interior of Bali at the time that Mount Agung erupted, bringing with it famine and food shortages at the same time that political turmoil had become the trigger for the tragedy of the mass executions that took place two years after my birth. When I was a child I was terrified of the goddess Durga, because according to my grandfather, who was a temple priest in the Pura Dalem temple of our village, Durga is the goddess who is worshipped in that temple in a terrifying form as the queen and goddess of all those who practice "left-hand" magic and is called ratuning leyak kabeh, "queen of all black magicians."
The journey of my career began when I graduated from the Department of English at the Faculty of Letters of Udayana University in Denpasar in 1988. Three years later I began teaching Bahasa Indonesia, the Indonesian language, to North American college undergraduates on the SIT Study Abroad Program in Bali, Indonesia. My experience teaching Indonesian language to American students opened up new horizons for me, and was able to learn more about the wider world while working to build cultural bridges between Indonesia and the United States.
In 2001 the SIT Study Abroad Program in Bali/Indonesia was temporarily suspended due to security concerns and my husband and I were transferred to Jaipur, Rajasthan to work for a program in North Indian Arts and Culture that was also conducted by the SIT Study Abroad branch of World Learning, its parent organization. While working in India I was struck almost immediately by the images of the goddess Durga that I encountered there, which were so different from what I knew from my home in Bali. In India Durga is pictured as a Warrior Goddess of great beauty who gives protection to her devotees, while in Java and Bali she is pictured as a demoness who dwells in the graveyard called Gandamayu ("Fragrant Scent of Corpses") and is worshipped in the Pura Dalem along with the god Shiva, known in Bali as Dewa Siwa.
Seeing such an extreme difference between what I knew from my childhood and what I experienced in India gave rise to my resolve to learn more about the factors behind the differences between images of Durga in India and Bali. From that time I began to read widely, conduct informal interview and make personal observations with the aim of understanding how the change had happened. My interest in deepening my knowledge about representations of the goddess Durga took a fortunate turn when I was able to apply for a fellowship to complete a doctoral dissertation in history at Charles Darwin University (CDU) in the Northern Territory of Australia. I was fortunate that my proposal to complete a dissertation on transformations of images of the goddess Durga between India, Java and Bali was accepted. I would like to express my sincere gratitude here to Dr. Christine Doran of the School for Creative Arts and Humanities at CDU, who agreed to be my supervisor and patiently guided me through every step of the process of completing my dissertation.
In late 2006 I was appointed Academic Director of the SIT Study Abroad Program in Indonesia, and so after that had to divide my time between my working duties on the one hand and my field work and meetings with my supervisor on the other. The combination was lucky, however, because I was able to meet many students and scholars from Indonesia, Australia and North America who helped me to broaden my horizons. One scholar whose work influenced my study for the doctorate was that of Saskia Wierenga, who has written an important historical study of the way that members of the Indonesian women's movement were demonized during the tumultuous transition from Old Order to New Order Indonesia.
Saskia Wierenga's work inspired me to look at possible parallels between the fate of the Indonesian Women's Movement of Old Order Indonesia and the extreme change between Indian images of a beautiful warrior goddess and Balinese images of a demoness who lives in the Gandamayu cemetery. In this picture the older image of the Women's Movement is one of an organization that was progressive and popular, whereas in the generations that followed this organization had been marginalized and made a taboo subject through false accusations that they had been the masterminds behind the tragic murder of six of Indonesia's most famous and influential generals in mid-1965.
In January 2012 I was invited to participate in an International Symposium on Conflict and Resolution that was held in Kigali, Rwanda with the sponsorship of World Learning, I learned a great deal at this symposium and concluded that in resolving past conflicts there is nothing more important than discussion and mutual acceptance, whether on the side of those who were responsible for acts of violence or on the side of the victims. I learned from our Rwandan hosts that there is always a way to heal old wounds, even when the past is as difficult as the one experienced in Rwanda in 1974.
My work for SIT Study Abroad and World Learning has allowed me to participate in international seminars, and has convinced me that I should publish my dissertation as a book, even though several chapters discuss matters that are still considered taboo by many people. It is my hope that in the future history will deal truthfully with the past so that we can all life peacefully and create a stronger society.
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