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Kuta Culture - Hindu Art and Ancient Rituals

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By some accounts, there are more temples than houses on Bali, and spiritual life defines the art and culture of this predominantly Hindu island. Hundreds of canang sari - colourful offerings of flowers and rice in handwoven trays - decorate the sidewalks of Kuta each morning in gratitude to the gods. From ceremonial masks to traditional dances, native customs and crafts cast a powerful spell while extending a warm welcome to visitors.

Celebrations and festivals

 

Funeral processions and wedding parties are frequent public events, and if you happen upon one, you'll likely be invited to join in. Temple ceremonies fill the calendar, and local worshippers are happy to include respectful tourists. Before Balinese New Year, the island erupts into colourful Melasti ceremonies of cleansing and purification. Parades of demonic effigies called Ogoh Ogoh converge on the beaches, and Kuta goes uncharacteristically quiet on Nyepi, the "Day of Silence."

 

Kuta Beach, Legian Beach

 

During religious festivals and holidays, the beaches at Kuta and Legian become lively ceremonial sites. While some local rituals are staged specifically for tourists, these genuine displays of cultural pride draw visitors deeper into the real Bali.

 

Jalan Pantai Kuta, KutaTel: N/A

 

Kuta Beach, Legian Beach website

Balinese theatre and dance

 

Balinese dances are unforgettably intense, as elaborately costumed dancers use dramatic movements and exaggerated facial expressions to tell epic stories, many of which predate the advent of Hinduism on Bali. These hypnotic performances are typically accompanied by a gamelan orchestra of gongs, drums, and other native percussion. Banjar Buni and Banjar Tegal are the among most popular venues but many of the larger hotels stage their own dinner shows.

 

Legian Beach Hotel

 

At the hotel's Lais Restaurant you can enjoy buffet selections from across the archipelago while watching a traditional dance show. A full gamelan orchestra provides the music, and the performers are so bewitching you might not notice the spectacular view.

 

Jalan Melasti, Legian, Badung, Bali. Tel: +62 361 751711

 

Legian Beach Hotel website

 

Kuta theatre

 

Lights of Faith at Kuta theatre combines traditional dance with contemporary drama and a touch of magic-show trickery. The story is supposedly true, a tale of 2 friends set against each other by the temptations of modern life.

 

Jalan Kartika Plaza 8X, Kuta Centre 2nd Floor, Bali. Tel: +62 361 762750

 

Kuta theatre website

 

Balinese shadow puppets

 

When you sit in the audience of a traditional wayang kulit show, you see only the shadows cast by the hand-painted and gilded leather puppets. One puppeteer voices each character while controlling the movements of the puppets in elaborate plays full of symbolism. Move to the side of the stage if you can, or stick around afterward for a close-up look at these impressive works of art.

 

Banjar Buni

 

At this large, open-air meeting hall, you'll be part of a mostly local audience. The Balinese crowd really helps you get in the spirit of a wayang kulit puppet show, and the hall hosts other forms of native performance art.

 

Jalan Raya Kuta, Kuta, Badung, Bali. Tel: no phone

 

Banjar Buni website

 

Ceremonial masks and other handicrafts

 

Balinese artists and artisans produce batik and ikat textiles, wooden ceremonial masks, and intricately tooled silver jewelry sought by collectors worldwide. On almost every street in Kuta you'll find it hard to pass shops and galleries that catch your eye with everything from inexpensive yet finely crafted souvenirs to colourful landscape paintings. Vendors stand ready to haggle over prices at Kuta Market, located beachside near the end of Jalan Bakungsari.

 

Biasa Artspace

 

On an island so steeped in tradition, modern art can seem especially striking. Biasa Artspace in Seminyak invites you to view the work of contemporary Indonesian artists, who often play with local conventions in their original photography, painting, and sculpture.

 

Jalan Raya Seminyak 34, Kuta, Bali. Tel: +62 361 730 308

 

Biasa Artspace website

 

Museum Kain

 

A walk through Museum Kain gives you a colourful primer on the history of native weaving and batik. Rotating exhibits showcase different eras and styles of textile-work from across Bali and beyond.

 

Jalan Raya Pantai Kuta, Beachwalk Level 3, Kuta, Badung, Bali. Tel: +62 361 846 55 68

 

Museum Kain website

 

An artistic excursion to Ubud

 

It's easy to arrange a day trip from Kuta to Ubud, the island's cultural heart. There you can visit artists and craftspeople in their workshops, where they produce the bamboo wind chimes, teak wood carvings, and batik designs you see in Kuta shops. Traditional dances and sacred monkeys make the trip even more worthwhile. You can hire a private driver, then wander the streets of the compact town on your own, though many group tours also operate out of Kuta.

 

Bali traditional tours

 

A friendly, knowledgeable, English-speaking guide will pick you up at your hotel and introduce you to real native culture, even visiting a Balinese family home. Most tours follow the same general itinerary but can be customized to your interests.

 

Tel: +62 85 935 009 823

 

Bali traditional tours website