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Bali Script As Key To Open The Asset f Bali

9 February 2009

Except for oral tradition, Balinese community also has written traditions. It is inseparable from the spread of Hinduism and Buddhism in Indonesia during the ninth to tenth centuries. At the time Devanagari and Pallawa script were widely used to perform written inscriptions immortalizing important events.

Thanks to these two scripts that implanted important basic in the origin of Balinese script. At a glance, Japanese scripts (Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji) have similarity to Balinese script in terms of its functions. Balinese script has three types involving the wreastra (to inscribe common words), swalalita (borrowing words from Old Javanese and Sanskrit), and modre (holy syllables). Departing from this similarity, Bali should be able to take a spirit to develop itself. If Japanese language can play important role in the regions most visited by its tourists, Bali ideally should be able to play the role at least at home.

JATA Ecotourism Handbook mentions some important points regarding to ecotourism namely the principle of treasuring and preserving irreplaceable nature and precious cultural assets (including language and script); and the guidelines including to value and respect cultural assets and historical sites and to try to communicate in the local languages. On seeing these, language and script denote important cultural asset in ecotourism development.

A friend of the writer, an expert in Balinese language, once told that in Leiden, the lontars manuscript are stored in a very secure room. In order to see (read) it; one should pass through at least three security layers. Then, another point is an important lontar was once handed over to the former President Megawati by the Queen of the Netherlands in person. These indicate that how important assets the lontar manuscripts are. Have the Balinese given the same attention to theirs? Probably, only some have done it, while some others prefer to leave theirs obsolete at home without knowing what subject matter it contains.

As a tourist destination Bali has a great potential to introduce this asset to visitors. Moreover, script as a medium to record important thinking, ancient tradition and literary works is worth giving serious attention. The problem is that how to make the preservation go hand in hand with the business. It needs a business touch packaging the leisure travel and study on the native language of the destination. And more specifically, how to make the publication written in Balinese language and script that can attract others (beyond Balinese community) to know and read it? Of course, it should feature something beneficial for them.

Up to these days, Balinese characters are only widely used in the writing of lontar (palm-leaf) manuscripts. Meanwhile, for commercial book, magazine or publication for public consumption is almost unavailable. Ideally, there are regular publications using the native language (basa Bali) and Balinese script (aksara Bali). By doing so, both can be used to express Balinese culture and accommodate the needs of modern community. Through the media, both can feature relevant subject matter to modern living. On that account, the preservation will not stop at the competition of lontar inscription, writing of labels like the names of street in Denpasar, shop (along Jalan Gajah Mada), and board sign of governments office, but keeps on meeting the demand of the users life.

In short, Balinese scripts (along with Balinese language) should be able to accommodate the needs of its users today. They are becoming both an icon of Balinese community and a medium to express the users mind, emotion and communication in wider context as other languages and scripts do. Therefore, they should go hand in hand with time and make them not be left behind by its users!