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The Myth of Mayadenawa

THE MYTH OF MAYADENAWA, which provides some of the background for the important Galungan
ceremony, is part of Bujangga lore as well. Mayadenawas name is invariably associated with atheism,
and, hence, evil.

Mayadenawa was the son of a rich, powerful, and benevolent king who ruled in the area
called Balingkang (or Bali Kang), north of Kintamani, partway down into the Batur
crater just east of Penulisan. Mayadenawa was powerful and very evil, and could turn
himself into all manner of shapes or make himself invisible. He imposed his godless
regime upon all of Bali, destroyed the temples, punished those who worshiped their
gods, banned religious festivals, and so on. As a result, disaster struck. Crops withered
and died. Streams dried up. Hordes of rodents appeared. The people got sick, and were
starving. The priests appealed to Indra, who came to earth with a great army to chase
and kill Mayadenawa.
One of the mightiest of the battles between the two armies was brought to a halt
by sunset. That night, while the army of Indra was sleeping peacefully in its camp,
Mayadenawa sneaked into the camp and created a pool of poisonous water nearby. So
that he would not be detected, he was very careful not to make any noise, carefully
walking on the sides of his feet (Footprint in Balinese is tampak: siring means edge.
The place where this happened is known today as Tampak Siring.) The next morning
Indras army awoke, found the water nearby, and drank of it. Everyone became violently
sick. Indra used his magic power and created a large spring of fresh, clear water that
was able to cure the sickness of his army. The spring is called Tirtha Empul empul is
Kawi for a big spring of water.
Mayadenawa now fled from Indra, changing his shape from place to place. Finally
he changed himself into a large paras rock. Indra shot the rock with his magic arrow
and killed Mayadenawa. His blood flowed out of the rock down a hill and formed the
river Pekerisan. Indra cursed the river, saying that, although its waters would allow
rice to grow well, if the rice were harvested it would become bloody and smell like a
corpse. This curse was to last for 1,000 years. It appears that the Balinese viewed the
Pekerisan with considerable misgivings up until rather recently because of this curse.
The death of the arch-villain Mayadenawa took place on Rebo, Wednesday, of the 11th
week, Dunggulan, of the Balinese Pawukon calendar a day called Galungan. Today
Galungan is celebrated, some say, as the victory of religion over atheism, the triumph
of good over evil, the saving of the world from the forces of darkness.
Myths being what they are, some of the members of the Bujangga Wesnawe clan feel that Mayadenawa
actually was a member of, or was used to symbolize, their sect. Perhaps Mayadenawa was just a Bujangga
Wesnawe priest who was more interested in meditation and thought than he was in ritual and display
perhaps his atheism was nothing more than a less lavish and more ascetic version of Hinduism.
Perhaps, the Wesnawe say, it was the entrenched Siwaist priesthood, motivated by jealousy and anxious
to defend their own positions, who spread the word that Mayadenawa, a Bujangga Wesnawe, was the
evil anti-god. (The Wesnawe are not alone in feeling this some Theravada Buddhists cite the story as
an attack on their own spare and meditative loon of worship.)
Fred B. Eiseman, Jr., Bali. Sekala & Niskala. Essays on Religion, Ritual, and Art, Berkeley, CA, 1989,
Chap. 7: Bujangga Wesnawe. ICONOCLASTIC FOLLOWERS OF WISNU , p. 73f.

Bujangga Wesnawe

THE BUJANGGA WESNAWE are a small, but iconoclastic Hindu sect Wisnuists on
an island of Siwaists, disbelievers in caste in a caste-conscious society, ceremonially
austere on an island where grand and lavish displays of faith are exalted. The Wesnawe
suffer from a kind of second-class status from religious authorities and others who
feel that their priests deviate rather widely from the main stream of official Balinese
Hinduism, and Wesnawe priests, Ida Bujangga Rsi, are not given the status and publicity
accorded to the more connservative priests, the pedundas. Even in the ceremonies where
the priority of a Wisnu-based sect should be recognized, for example in administering
the caru purification rites, the Balinese just as often to turn to a sengguhu, a religious
man with neither the training nor the background of a Wesnawe, but whom most
Balinese assume to be just as qualified.
The Bujangga Wesnawe people are a clan or sect that considers itself to be caste-less,
tracing its doctrine to pre-Hindu Vedic notions of warna literally color, but meaning
order, or profession instead of fixed caste. Caste in Vedic, and Wesnawe, doctrine is
based on ones profession. Thus a teacher or priest is a Brahmans only as long as he is
a teacher or priest. According to the Wesnawe, the origin of their group dates back to
the time of the Upanishads, some 500 to 800 years before the common era.
The story is told thar, much like the founding of Buddhism, Wesnawism was a
reaction to ubuses of prestige and status by high caste Hindus.
Fred B. Eiseman, Jr., Bali. Sekala & Niskala. Essays on Religion, Ritual, and Art, Berkeley, CA, 1989,
Chap. 7: Bujangga Wesnawe. ICONOCLASTIC FOLLOWERS OF WISNU, p. 68.