Pura Luhur Uluwatu is spiritually important to the people of Bali, as it is one of Bali’s sacred directional temples (kayangan jagat) protecting the island from evil spirits in the southwest.
“Ulu” means head, and “Watu” means rock; the temple at “the head of the rock” stands atop a sheer cliff rising two hundred feet above the Indian Ocean. The temple commands a wonderful view of the sea breaking against the base of the cliffs below, and a totally unforgettable sunset.
“Kecak” is derived from an old Balinese ritual called the sanghyang – a trance dance driven by its participants’ repetitive chanting. In its ancient form, the sanghyang communicated the wishes of the gods or of the ancestors.
No musical instruments are used in a kecak performance – instead, you find about thirty bare-chested men sitting in a circle, uttering “chak… chak… chak” rhythmically and repetitively. The total effect is trance-inducing – repetitive voices and outlandish costumes creating a trippy multimedia experience.
The performance plays out as the sun sets, and the culmination involves a giant fire display that is integral to the plot.
Texts are quoted from “Pura Luhur Uluwatu’s Kecak and Fire Dance” by Michael Aquino, Southeast Asia Travel Guide.
All photographs by M.Khalid Ibrahim©