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Penjor is the Sacred Mountain Symbol in Bali

25 October 2009

One day before Galungan, a penjor is erected in front of the house entrance gate. Hindu communities in Bali believe if from the height one will be easier to get composure and self-enlightenment. The height is associated with mountains, equals to penjor and a curved bamboo pole to make penjor’s is the mountain symbol.

The curved bamboo pole of the penjor is embellished with any kinds of crops, like paddy, bananas or other fruits that are suspended as a kind of sacrificial oblation. On the upper end of the penjor is hung a piece of white or yellow fabric as the symbol of purity and cleanliness as the ultimate goal of human life. Ultimate goal of human life is moksha (reunion with God). This ultimate goal lies in the plain sky. White is also denoted as high cloud above the mountain.

Having had religious value, the penjor is frequently delivers aesthetic or cultural values. Penjor’s are not merely a means of sacrifice, but also made for other needs than Galungan festivity. Here, penjoris employed as an indication that one is performing a certain ritual, for instance, a bridal penjor. This set of penjor is generally made and completed with high sanggah (bamboo altar shrine) and long lamak (decorative palm-leaf arrangement) as a path that leads the couple to their new journey of life.

bali penjorPenjor Galungan and other kinds of penjor have nearly the same form; however, the form of its sanggah and function distinguishes them. Penjor are used in the rice field has small size and commonly erected on the ritual of mebiukukung (one of rituals carried out when the paddy is turning yellow in the rice field). This rice field ritual functions as veneration to Goddess Sri (divine light of God) to invoke in order the harvested crops will be better. Penjor used in mebiukukung ritual does not contain any fruits, but only affixed with sampian (a kind of coconut leaf arrangement).

In this case, penjor can be divided into two kinds, namely the sacred and that of decoration. At a glance, both look the same, but they are indeed different. Penjoras complement of a religious ceremony is made sacred, its content should be complete and marked off with the presence of sampian indicated by elements of leaves, fruits (crops), paraphernalia (sanggah to put the oblation) and a piece of white or yellow fabric. The content of decorative penjor is not complete—indeed, also added with sampian but not along with canang sari (means of veneration for the Hindus) and crops. Even though it contains some leaves, they are just intended for decoration.

So, how about the penjor that is set in place or by other religions? If the penjor merely intended for decorative purpose, it does not matter. But, if such a penjor has already contained sesajen (oblation), it is unacceptable and needs putting into question. If the penjor is used sacredly as a Hindu symbol and its ingredients comply with the requirements as mandated in Hinduism and it is employed by those of Hindu devotees and furthermore if the symbols belong to Hindu but employed by other religions, it is obviously a different case and may provoke the word ‘harassment’.