Pitana, I Gde
This thesis examines warga or 'origin groups' in contemporary Bali and considers the negotiations over hierarchy and equality in which they are socially engaged. The study focuses on Warga Pasek Sapta Rsi and its formal organisation, the Maha Gotra Pasek Sanak Sapta Rsi (MGPSSR). This warga is
the largest origin group and one of the most progressive in the struggle for equality.
The study was carried out throughout Bali, since there is no 'average village' which can represent 'Balinese...[Show more] society'; variation in socio-cultural practices in Bali is unbelievably wide ranging according to village or region. Moreover, the nature of the warga, which crosscuts administrative boundaries, compelled me to wander from one village to another, from one kabupaten to the
next. I even followed members of this warga to Solo (Central Java), as this warga has discovered one of its presumed ancestors there and has constructed a petilasan (tomb-shrine), where annual celebrations are conducted. To start with, I describe the 'multiple identities' of the Balinese, since all Balinese are inevitably members of more than one organisation, ie. desa adat (customary village) and banjar (customary hamlet), desa dinas (administrative village), subak (organisations for irrigation farmers), subak abian (organisations for upland farmers), pamaksan (temple congregations), seka (functional groups), and warga (kin-based origin networks). All of these organisations are
egalitarian in nature, in the sense that all members are more or less equal, regardless of their other social roles, and no member holds special privileges. Once they enter the sphere of these organisations, they are 'one,' as 'brothers' (semeton). The theory of four-castes provides an inappropriate concept to understand Balinese society because it oversimplifies the complexity of Balinese social relations and daily interactions. As an alternative, I suggest that the concept of origin group or warga is more useful, since the warga has more religious and sociological significance than caste. Nonetheless, I maintain the terms
Triwangsa and Jaba, the first being those who bear honorific initial names and the latter those who do not. Despite the honorific initial name they bear, the Triwangsa people have no special privilege in present-day Bali. The establishment of modern-style organisations for warga has been
inspired by an ideology of equality that challenges the hierarchical ordering of
these warga. The sense of being different from others with a distinct identity is
clear in the emergence of warga organisations. They emphasise the concept of
'difference,' as opposed to 'hierarchy.' According to the concept of difference,
no warga is higher or lower, and the various symbols used by different warga
are merely differences. This search for difference is obvious in warga of the Jaba, notably Warga Pande, Bhujangga Waisnawa, and Pasek Sapta Rsi. The search for difference, in practice, means a search for enhanced status. However, the search for status here is not carried out by claiming honorific initial names (as is frequently reported), but by each warga's attempt to enhance its status as a whole while ignoring the hierarchical order of the warga. The search for difference also means a search for identity. To establish their difference and, at the same time, assert a prestigious self-identity, a warga invariably chooses a certain figure as its originator. The chosen originator must be popular, extraordinary in some way, and prestigious. In order to maintain its distinctiveness, this originator must not have been claimed by another warga. The role of babad (a traditional chronicle) is important in the
(re )construction of the warga. Babad, particularly the part called the bisama
(ancestral instruction), has been very effective in establishing the attitude of
warga in general, particularly toward the maintenance of origin temples (pura kawitan), the conduct of ritual ceremonies in such temples, and reinvention of a
symbolic identity for the warga. Babad and bisama thus become a charter, the neglect of which is an offence against the ancestors, which will result in punishment. Leadership patterns of most warga organisations, including the MGPSSR, have shifted from traditional leaders, who are leaders of dadya or dadya agung, to new-elite leaders, ie. those who hold power in the government bureaucracy, intellectuals, or businessmen, who are not necessarily influential in their own warga temples. This has produced a psychological divide between these leaders and their grassroots supporters, ie. members of dadya throughout Bali. Some
problems faced by the MGPSSR in implementing its programs have been associated with this psychological divide. The temple system of the warga is clearly an arena where the warga try to consolidate their strength. Temples are the building blocks of warga
organisations. The success or failure of the MGPSSR is clearly determined by its ability in controlling its temple system. The formal acknowledgment by Parisada (the Indonesian Hindu Council), that all twice-born priests (sulinggih) are equal in status, has been effectively used by some warga in Bali to channel their struggle for status. At present, the priesthood is a battle field between the ideology of homo-hierarchicus and
homo-aequalis. In order to be able to use their priests to spread their ideology,
the MGPSSR tries to produce priests of high quality. This is partly achieved through the rules of a 'priesthood ladder,' according to which an ordinary member from Warga Pasek Sapta Rsi cannot directly perform a consecration ceremony (dwijati) without first becoming a pemangku and then a jero-gede (both are lower-level priests). Another means to ensure quality is through an
oral examination (diksa pariksa) for the candidate, administered by a special team from the MGPSSR. Aside from the effort to achieve quality, several practices found in the consecration of a priest from Warga Pasek Sapta Rsi are also meant to mark their identity by marking 'differences.' Other factors of great help for the MGPSSR in the struggle for equality are the introduction of the Pancasila, the Indonesian state ideology, which acknowledges that human beings are equal; the better access to Hindu teachings from Vedic sources, not merely Balinese sources; the movement to purify
Balinese Hindu religion or 'return to the Veda'; and the contemporary global concern with social justice and human rights. In legitimising its claim of equality, the MGPSSR has developed a discourse based on global issues, on the Indonesian nation-state ideology of equality, and on traditional sources.
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