Pilgrims go to Bali's magical Nusa Penida by Tri Vivi Suryani, Jakarta Post, 21 March 2002
A dark cave teeming with hundreds of bats and large snakes may not seem like an attractive place to visit. It is not a cave belonging to Batman, but Pura Goa Giri Putri in Nusa Penida Island, some 40 kilometres east of Denpasar, where Hindus frequently make a pilgrimage to seek spiritual enlightenment.
It is no doubt that stressful modern life has caused numerous psychological and spiritual; disturbances, such as depression, frustration and alienation, to name a few. Social trends have also affected many Balinese people, who are now trapped between tradition and modernity and who are now widely exposed to global tourism.
Many of them are now seeking ways to find peace and happiness by going on pilgrimages to sacred places in the province. These people are locally known as pemedek (those making spiritual journeys).
One of Bali's holiest places is Nusa Penida Island in Klungkung Regency, East Bali. Once a barren island where the King of Klungkung sent convicted people, Nusa Penida is currently considered a popular destination for pilgrims.
This has motivated smart local business people to organize Tirtayatra packages in a very attractive and efficient way.
In the past, it was difficult to reach Nusa Penida because of the lack of means of transportation and its expense, as well as a lack of basic tourist infrastructure on the island, such as lodgings and restaurants. A number of travel agencies have eyed this opportunity by offering various packages.
Komala, from Nusa Penida Bungalow, explained that her agency is trying to overcome problems faced by these pilgrims. Her package includes a guided tour by a pemangku (low priest), the offerings necessary, land and sea transportation and one night's accommodation at the bungalow. She charges 250,000 Rp (US$25) per person. A group comprises 10 persons to 20 persons, she said. Other travel agencies may offer different packages.
Nusa Penida has a number of sacred places to visit. If visitors choose one of the offered packages, they will initially be taken to Goa Giri Putri. To reach the goa (cave), one must climb 131 steps. Upon arrival at the mouth of the cave, there is the pelinggih (a spiritual place) of Hyang Siwa Raditya, the god of Shiva. Visitors are required to pray and to ask the god's permission before setting foot in the cave's long, narrow and dark corridor.They must walk in single file because it is only wide enough for one person. However, it is quite strange that the corridor will always accommodate anyone, whether slim of chubby. At the end of the corridor, one must crawl a 60-centimeter pass to reach a giant hole, which has a diameter of around 60 meters.
The main cave is approximately 200 meters long. Visitors will find two important pelinggih dedicated to Hyang Giri Putri and Hyang Siwa Mertha. The journey is not yet over. Another winding alley must be passed to reach telaga penglukatan, a purification lagoon, where pemedek spiritually cleanse their bodies from any bad influences. The next step is to walk toward pelinggih Catur Lokapala. Right above it, there is an eternal water spring where pilgrims sprinkle the water over their bodies.
Mangku Meneng Alit, who guides tourists, said that the volume of water at the spring has never changed. "It is always full, although hundreds of people take water from it. On the other hand, the water never overflows, even when nobody comes here," said the low priest.
A long and difficult journey to Goa Giri Putri might be tiring and a little bit frightening for those who rarely go on outdoor trips. The atmosphere of the cave might resemble a scene from a horror movie. Equipped with only a dim kerosene lamp, the shadows of bats projected onto the cold walls of the cave create a thrilling moment for many visitors. Other cave inhabitants are big snakes, which slowly slither between the cave's floor and walls. Some visitors will shout hysterically when seeing them, but here have been no reports od the animals biting humans.
After visiting Goa Giri Putri, there are several other sacred places in Nusa Penida, such as Pura Dalem Ped and Pura Puncak Mundi.
A pilgrimage to Pura Dalem Ped consists of four visits — starting with Pura Segara (the sea temple0 where a special pelinggih in the form of a big fish is dedicated to Dewa Baruna, the god of the sea. The trip continues to Pura Taman (the garden temple), which is surrounded by a pond filled with beautiful lotus flowers and plants. A visit to Pura Ratu Gede, the scariest place of all, is a must. The trip to Pura Dalem Ped ends at Pura Penataran Agung Ped where two holy pelinggih exist. There is also a statue, which is believed to be able to "communicate" with some chosen few, the blessed people.
The Tirtayatra package to Nusa Penida ends at Pura Puncak Mundi, a holy temple located at the peak of the Mundi Hill. From the grounds of the temple, the views of Bali and Lombok islands are clearly visible.
Some tourists say the pilgrimage is good for enhancing their spirituality. I Gusti Pujastana, a successful businessman in Bali, said he frequently took part in Tirtayatra. "I have been visiting holy places in Bali but in Nusa Penida, I felt something different. It was a memorable experience," he said. Pujastana went further, saying that he trembled when sitting and praying in front of pelinggih Goa Giri Putri.
Anak Agung Raka Yudha, an official at Badung administration, added he could not stop crying when meditating at Pura Dalem Ped. "It seemed as though my soul soared amid the stillness of Pura Dalem Ped," Agung explained.
Tri Vivi Suryani, Jakarta Post, 21 March 2002