The Philosophical and Magical Meanings and the Plant Layout of Balinese Traditional Garden

 Read the original article in Indonesian Language by clicking here.

A Balinese style garden which refers to the Balinese traditional garden concepts has been popular not only in Bali, but also in other areas in Indonesia, even in the foreign countries. In my opinion, Balinese style garden is a most common garden style in the resort area, especially in the ethnic and exotic theme resorts. Since I see the phenomenon that most of resort places bringing ethnic and exotic themes, there are obviously elements which refer to the concept of Balinese style garden (whether the garden that implements Balinese traditional garden concepts or just profiteer-partly on the visual form of the garden). However, do all those who enjoy the beauty of Balinese style garden comprehend regarding the philosophical meanings of the plants that become the soft element of Balinese garden? Not necessarily. Most people may merely enjoy the Balinese garden in the visual aesthetic aspect, but do not comprehend the real concept and philosophical meanings of the Balinese garden they see and enjoy.

Whereas, a Balinese style garden which actually refers to the concept of the Balinese traditional garden is far beyond than merely a beautiful visual presence to the eye. For designing a Balinese style garden that is based on the original concept of Balinese traditional garden, a landscape architect should thoroughly consider the three main elements in Balinese traditional garden, namely Satyam (truth), Siwam (purity, glory, and hygiene), and Sundaram (beauty and harmony). Furthermore, there are four components that must be considered, namely:

  1. Ardha Chandra (the crescent): the form of the hard and aesthetic elements;
  2. Kayu Kasta Gumani: the elements of the form of plant life-giving. These components, then gave birth to the concept of Panca Wriksa (the five life-giving tree), namely Ficus, Bodhi, Banana, Fishtail Palm, and Tiger’s Claw trees. According to the sources of Puranas, Panca Wriksa originally came from the vegetation growing in the Garden of Nandhana (the Palace of Indraloka) consisting of Wandira (Ficus), Parijataka (Tiger’s Claw Tree), Dewandaru (Harichandanaka), Kalpataru, and Vilva (Maja);
  3. Tirta Kamandalu: the water element that gives coolness, both in the life and the natural environment; and
  4. Goddess Lakshmi: the element of the beauty in the terms of harmony, peace, and the environment.

Hence, Balinese style landscape has a grand philosophical concept (from soft to hard elements) which creates an integrated constellation between the microcosm and the macrocosm. Now, let’s discuss regarding the soft elements of Balinese garden, namely the plants used in Balinese traditional gardens, from the front yard of the entrance area (angkul-angkul) until the natah area (inner courtyard).

  1. Ficus Tree (Ficus Benjamina L.), which provide shade to the environment and has a symbolic significance to provide peace of life. However, Ficus tree should not be planted in the natah area (inner courtyard) since in the conception of the Balinese traditional garden, Ficus is believed to become the favourite dwelling place of Satan Banaspati which adversely affect the residents of the house.
  2. Bodhi/Ancak Tree (Hemandia pellata) that has a religious function as a meditation place to invoke life and peace with God.
  3. Banana Tree (Musa sapientum L.), which is a food-producing tree giving life to human beings.
  4. Fishtail Palm (Caryota mitis), that has a religious and symbolic function as a place to receive inspiration and advice.
  5. Drymophloeus Palm (Drymophloeus ovilivacouncis Mart). A kind of palm that in the religious and magical aspect serves as a place to worship and praise the greatness of God.
  6. Cactus (Pachycereus Sp). In Balinese traditional garden concept is considered as the plant-repellent reinforcements and is believed to counteract the evil intentions. Therefore this plant is usually planted on the right side before the entrance to the yard. In addition, this plant can also be planted in the courtyard adjacent to the entrance of the house or in around the kitchen.
  7. Tiger’s Claw/Indian Coral/Sunshine Tree (Erythrina variegata). This Red flowering tree is also believed to counteract the evil intentions or refuse the malicious (evil) people from entering the house. Hence, this plant is usually planted on the left side before the entrance to the courtyard paired with Cactus.
  8. Rhapis Palm (Raphis excelsa) is believed to destroy the stronger negative forces, thus it is usually planted after the entrance of the yard, next to the entrance of the yard.
  9. Moringa Tree (Moringa oleifera). This small ovoid-leaved tree in the concept of the Balinese traditional garden is used as the last evil deterrent in the yard of the house and in consequence it is usually planted on the land adjacent to the kitchen.
  10. White Frangipani (Plumeria acuminata) and Sudamala/ Red Frangipani (Plumeria rubra). Both types of these plants have the philosophical meaning to cleanse and purify everyone who will enter into the main area of the dwelling or to the sacred area. Hence, both of these plants are usually planted in the main entrance.
  11. Seligi/ Phyllanthus (Phyllanthus buxifolius Muell. Arg). The plant that in Indonesian traditional medicine is often used to treat the dislocated joints is believed to refuse and eliminate all forms of evil thoughts. In order that only the well-thought people alone who can enter the house. This plant is usually planted around the main entrance.
  12. Ceylon Ironwood/Indian Rose Chestnut/Cobra’s Saffron (Mesua Ferrea L.). This woody tree that is classified into the group of the Garcinieae tribe is believed to become the darling tree of the Gods and Goddess because it has the whitest, clean, and cold aura. Therefore this tree is usually planted inside of the main yard, after the main entrance.
  13. The scented flowering plants like Roses, Frangipani, Ylang-ylang, Tiger’s Claw, Gardenia (Cape jasmine), etc. are also the kinds of flower plants that is commonly planted in the yard area of Balinese house, from the entrance area of the front yard (angkul-angkul) until the natah area (inner courtyard) because they are believed to bring the influence of purity and beauty. The aroma of these flowers is also considered to help concentrate while worshiping of God therefore they are often planted around the sacred building of worship and are used as one of the main completeness in some religious ceremony in Bali.
  14. Fruit trees such as Mangosteen, Star Fruit, etc. are the excellent plant species to be planted in the yard adjacent to the kitchen and on the outside of natah
  15. Medori Flower/ White Widuri (Calotropis gigantea). The big shrubs with flowers layered wax that can be white or purple-colored (the white-colored flower is that used for Balinese traditional garden style) in Balinese traditional culture are the symbol of Sang Hyang Iswara (the ruler of Purwa/ the God of east direction). Accordingly, they are planted on the east side of yard area.
  16. White Lotus (Nymphaea lotus) and Moon Coconut (Cocos nucifera L. “Bulan”). These plants are also the symbol of Sang Hyang Iswara, thus they are planted in the eastern part of the yard area.
  17. Areca Nut Tree (Areca catechu). The plant that in the relief of Sukuh temple in Java is described planted in the middle of the Pasetran Gondomayit* area, the reign palace of Goddess Durga (the goddess of death), in Balinese traditional culture is the symbol of Sang Hyang Brahma (the ruler of Daksana/the God of south direction). Hence, this plant is planted in the southern part of the yard area. (*Note: Pasetran Gondomayit is a Javanese ancient term which means land smelling corpse.)
  18. Red Lotus (Nymphaea rubra). The flower that in both Hindu and Buddhist beliefs is known as the sacred flower, in Balinese traditional culture is also the symbol of Sang Hyang Brahma. Therefore this plant is planted in the southern part of the yard area. In addition, Shrimp Coconut (Cocos nucifera L. “Udang”) is also planted in the southern part of the yard area.
  19. Chinese Perfume Tree (Aglaia odorata Lour), Gading Coconut (Cocos nucifera L. varieties eburnea) and Yellow Lotus (Nymphaea mexicana) are the symbol of Lord Mahadeva, the ruler of Pascima (the God of westerly direction). Hence, these plants are planted in the western part of the yard area.
  20. Butterfly Pea/Asian Pigeonwings (Clitoria ternatea), Gadang Coconut (Cocos nucifera L. “Gadang”) and the Blue Lotus (Nymphaea caerulea) are the symbol of Sang Hyang Vishnu, the ruler of Uttara (the God of north direction). Accordingly, these plants are planted in the northern part of the yard area.
  21. Pancawarna Lotus Flower (five-colored lotus) and Sudamala Coconut are the representation of Lord Shiva, thus they are planted in the middle of the yard area.
  22. Ratna Flower or Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa L.). This beautiful plant has the purplish-pink rounded flower form. In the story of Adiparwa, this plant was used as a means to create the form of a beautiful princess named Tilotama whom then assigned to tempt the two gigantic twins who were meditating in order to be able to conquer and rule the heaven of the Gods. This flower has functioned as the aesthetic element in the yard area of the house and also as one of the main flowers used in many religious ceremonies in Bali. Moreover, it can also be used as an herbal medicinal plant to treat various diseases, such as tuberculosis, asthma, dysentery, itching, fever, headache, and so on.

The plants that should not be planted in the natah area (inner courtyard area).

Based on Balinese traditional landscape concepts, the segmented stem plants such as Coconut (Cocos nucifera), Castor (Ricinus communis), Sugar Cane (Saccharum sp.), Bamboo (Bambusoideae), etc. have the philosophical meaning of fragmenting or discontinuing both sustenance and life, thus, they are not planted in the natah area.


Other plants functioning in the symbolic and religious aspect of worship, which is usually also planted based on the layout or direction of the yard area, are as follows:

  1. The plants that are often planted in the eastern part of the yard area: Candlenut (Aleurites moluccana), Star Gooseberry (Phyllanthus acidus Skeels), Durian (Durio zibethinus Mere), and White Jade Orchid Tree (Magnolia alba).
  2. The plants that are often planted in the southern part of the yard area: Corn (Zea mays L), Salak (Salacca edulis BL), Betel Nut (Areca catechu L), Mangosteen (Garcinia mangosta L.), Red Rose (Rosa hybrida), Ixora (Ixora javanica), Oleander (Nerium oleander), and Zinnia (Zinnia elegans).
  3. The plants that are often planted in the western part of the yard area: Coconut (Cocos nucifera L), Corn (Zea mays L.), Langsat (Lansium domesticum Jack), Champak (Michelia champaca), Yellow Flower, and Allamanda (Allamanda cathartica ).
  4. The plants that are often planted in the northern part of the yard area: Sorghum (Sorghum vulgare Pers), Mangosteen (Garcinia mangosta L), Pangium / Kepayang / Keluwak (Pangium edule Reinw), Mango (Mangifera indica), and Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata).

Reference:

Gelebet, I Nyoman. Dkk. Arsitektur Tradisional Daerah Bali. Denpasar. Departemen P dan K. 1986.

http://www.parissweethome.com/bali/cultural_my.php?id=11

http://www.babadbali.com/pura/plan/dalem-swargan-5.htm

http://www.balipost.co.id/balipostcetak/2005/9/29/pr1.htm

Hits: 581

21 comments on “The Philosophical and Magical Meanings and the Plant Layout of Balinese Traditional GardenAdd yours →

    1. Info regarding the perfect means of writing? I don’t have further information pertaining to the info you mean. I think every people have their own writing style. I just often read many books and articles in English to enrich my knowledge and learn the writing style of the native English writer, also learn the grammar since I am not a native English speaker.

  1. Hmm it looks like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll
    just sum it up what I had written and say,
    I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger
    but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any helpful hints for first-time blog writers?
    I’d certainly appreciate it.

  2. Hi there! I know thius is sort of off-topic however
    I hadd to ask. Does managing a well-established blog like yours take a massive amount work?
    I’m completely new to running a blog but I do write in my diary everyday.
    I’d like to start a blog so I can share mmy own experience and views online.
    Please leet me know if you have any kind of ideas or tips for new aspiring
    bloggers. Appreciate it!

Leave a Reply