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  The Balinese Compound

Let's take a look at the typical Balinese commoners 'house' or compound. First, it should be emphasized that the Balinese do not live in a 'house' in the Western sense of the word.

Their living quarters are large compounds of 600 to 900m2 comprising a number of separate buildings, most of them with verandahs, which are the counterpart of rooms in the Western house.

Outward rather than inward-oriented, this architectural concept is devised so as to blend Man within his environment: people spend most of their time 'outside', in the yard (natah), or on the open verandahs of the main buildings.

The only closed spaces are the parent's room in the 'bale dauh' - to the west (dauh) of the central part of the compound - at the youth and children's sleeping quarters, the 'bale daja', to the upstream-west part of the compound.

The kitchen (paon) is located downstream and west of the compound, with the granary (jineng) to its east. Old people usually spend their days in the 'dangin' pavilion, located in the central-eastern part of the house, while, just "above" it, the gods 'reside' in a smaller walled yard located in the eastern mountain-ward part of the compound called the 'sanggah' or 'merajan'.

The occupation of the various buildings by the members of the family corresponds to the phases of incarnated life: the young live in the 'bale daja', the building nearest to the mountain from which they 'recently' incarnated. With adulthood, they move to the middle-western pavilion (bale dauh).

Then, with old age, to the eastern 'bale dangin', the pavilion nearest to the family temple (sanggah or merajan) where their soul will be enshrined after death. As explained above, the structure of the compound is tripartite and based on cosmic concepts: 'houses' are seen as duplicates, both of the world and of the human body.

Corresponding to the abode of the gods, the compound has a head: the family temple; corresponding to the middle world, it has a torso: the yard, complete with its arms: the various buildings of residence, and its navel: the Indra shrine in the center of the yard; and, finally, corresponding to the lower world, it has respectively bowels, here the kitchen, genitals, here the gate, and even an anus, here the backyard refuse, situated 'downstream' from the kitchen.

There is a developed Balinese science of geomancy written in the ancient palm leaf manuscripts. This is known as 'Asta Kosala-Kosali'. Through it we can determine the best place to locate a kitchen for instance. Oftentimes when a family is suffering bad luck or misfortune, the first place the 'balian' or witch doctor will look for is any unwitting violations of the Balinese laws of building.

The science of building is held to be a sacred knowledge and traditional Balinese architects who might also be rice farmers were known by the distinguished title of 'undagi'.

Another large and important structure is the 'wantilan' or so called cock-fighting arena. It is called this because at one time cockfights were frequently held here. It is found near the palace and central market in every traditional village. Nearby stands a 'kulkul' or slit drum tower to call the members of the village together for meetings.

The 'wantilan' is also commonly used for performances. Once built entirely of wood most are made of re-enforced concrete today. The traditional 'wantilan' has also inspired the shapes and forms of many hotels and houses as the Amandari Hotel.

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