Dhanada K Mishra, Hong Kong, 8 November 2023
When I heard we were going to Bali for a short vacation – the first ever real non-work trip I have undertaken, many memories came flooding to my mind. In Odisha, we have grown up hearing about Bali since childhood. The stories of Sadhabas setting sail for Bali, the festival of Bali Jatra that is still celebrated in commemoration of the annual tradition, the heroic deeds of Biju Patnaik, who rescued the leader of Indonesia to be awarded the highest civilian award of that country – the Bhumi Putra, Odiyas settled in Bali – all came back making me excited to see the place. Odiyas even ruled Bali while assimilating with the locals.
As you land at Ngurah Rai Airport in Denpasar – named after a famous war hero who led the fight against the ruthless Dutch colonial forces, the island’s beauty greets you. Today, Bali is an internationally famous tourist destination since around the sixties. The Aussies first discovered it as a heaven for low-cost hang out for the sun, sand, surf and the people. Luckily, October was about the best time to visit Bali, yet it was not during the peak tourist season. We couldn’t have asked for better!
The enchanting island has captured the hearts of travellers from all around the world. With its breathtaking landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and warm hospitality, Bali offers a unique and unforgettable experience. It instantly reminds you of Odisha in so many ways.
Discovering Balinese Hospitality:
One of the first things that struck me about Bali was the genuine warmth and dedication of its people. From the moment I stepped foot on the island, I was greeted with smiling faces and heartfelt greetings. The official greeting of Bali is – Om Swastimastu – a phrase in Sanskrit meaning ‘May you be happy, healthy, safe and prosperous’. Namaskar is the universal greeting. The Balinese people take immense pride in their ability to serve tourists, ensuring that every visitor feels welcome and comfortable. It was truly refreshing to witness such genuine hospitality, which added an extra layer of joy to my trip.
Immersing in Balinese Culture:
Bali’s culture is deeply rooted in its ancient traditions and religious beliefs. During my visit, I had the opportunity to explore some of Bali’s majestic temples, each exuding a sense of spirituality and tranquillity. The intricate architecture and ornate sculptures were awe-inspiring, and I couldn’t help but marvel at the devotion and craftsmanship that went into their construction. It was amazing to see Balinese worship ‘Achintya’ – the inconceivable, which is the highest philosophical representation of the idea of the supreme consciousness. This idea is represented by a throne which is empty. While the Balinese Hindu people worshipped many Gods such as Shiva, Ganesh, Vishnu, etc. and worshipped their idols, the supreme God was ‘Achintya’ represented by ‘nothingness’.
The batik print garments also reminded one of Odisha’s handloom. Many historians have linked the handloom traditions of India – especially Odisha to the Balinese craft.
Knowing the strong influence of Odisha on Bali is one thing, but experiencing it first-hand was a delightful surprise. The similarities in the architecture, dance forms, food and even the use of vibrant colours in festivals like Odisha’s Ratha Yatra and Bali’s Galungan and Kuningan celebrations were striking. This connection allowed me to feel a sense of familiarity and made me appreciate the interconnectedness of cultures across borders.
Natural Wonders of Bali:
The island of Bali is blessed with abundant natural beauty, and we explored its stunning landscapes. Bali’s pristine beaches, with their crystal-clear waters and powdery white sand, were perfect for soaking up the sun and enjoying some well-deserved relaxation. We also ventured into the lush greenery of the famous monkey forest, where mischievous monkeys entertained us with their playful antics.
Additionally, we had the chance to visit a Balinese coffee garden, where I learned about the intricate process of producing the world-renowned Kopi Luwak coffee. Surrounded by lush plantations, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee filled the air, creating a sensory experience that will forever be etched in my memory.
I was eager to discuss the historic ties between Bali and Odisha with everyone I met in Bali. Unfortunately, most of them were unaware of the glorious maritime history and relation between our two lands. On the other hand, seeing Bali made me feel the acute pain of Odisha not being able to offer the same level of hospitality and comfort to tourists as Bali has done. Bali, in a way, represented a cleaner, greener, more hospitable version of Odisha. It’s what Odisha could be if we put in the effort!
‘Achintya’ – the supreme God represented by an empty throne was everywhere.
My journey to Bali was nothing short of magical. From the warm hospitality of the Balinese people to the exploration of its temples, beaches, and natural wonders, every moment was filled with awe and wonder. Bali’s unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty creates an experience that is truly unforgettable. I returned home with a newfound appreciation for the island and a desire to share the wonders of Bali with the world.