Lontar, Balinese Sacred Manuscript

[Jakarta, LTTW] As time goes by, tradition is continuously challenged, although regeneration can counteract this, as it is an important cycle in life that can help save values and meanings of our ancestors from disappearing. Therefore, we should not only be using those wisdoms to help us to understand the present moment, but it should also enrich the shared future we are yet to have.

Once again it is time to revisit our dear friend and guru, Bapak I Wayan Mudita, or known to many as Pak Mudita, the oldest living and well respected Lontar and Prasi maestro from Tenganan Pegringsingan Village, Bali. Pak Mudita not only re-writes the sacred manuscripts such as the Sutasoma, Baratayudha, Bhagawad Gita, Sarascamucaya etc. but he also fixes and improves the parts of the manuscripts that are no longer in shape or damaged.

I Wayan Mudita | Photography: Iqbal (SBF. Doc)

Lontar is a traditional manuscript written on dried palm leaves; almost unknown to many, but it is perhaps one of the most crucial and oldest cultural manifestations of the Balinese people, dating back as far as 11th century in Tenganan. It is the central source of greater knowledge that comprises the system of thoughts: intellectual, spiritual (religious) and philosophical, and it also contains traditional healing medicines and a vast collection of literatures. Balinese people believe that Sang Hyang Aji Saraswati, the manifestation of Ida Sang Hyang Widi (God) resides within Lontar as the source of knowledge. Once every 6 months [based on the Balinese calendar: Sabtu Kliwon Wuku Watuganung lontar-lontar]; a Piodalan ceremony is conducted to commemorate the goddess Saraswati.

Photography: Iqbal (SBF. Doc)

The interest and curiosity of the young villagers in Lontar have eroded as time passes by. A vast number of original manuscripts were burned down in 1840, which certainly affected the holistic understanding of the local wisdom and knowledge. Moreover, general education has changed the perception of local values, as life guidance as imparted in ancient Balinese literature, became increasingly irrelevant and unknown to the younger generations.

In practical terms, the majority of Lontar literature and manuscripts survive in the modern world in the forms of applications that are economically driven through merchandise such as calendars and comics, which make limited use of the literary language itself. But perhaps, by upholding and conserving the aesthetical and intellectual values of the sacred, the tradition will be able to survive by re-signifying the mind, heart and conscience of the Tenganan people, as well as others who come into contact with this wisdom and knowledge.

Lontar comic for a souvenir | Photography: Iqbal (SBF. Doc)




Author: Ginastera “Booboo” Sianturi

Chairman of Sacred Bridge Foundation

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments