A Different Kind of Memorial

on Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I know that our American friends have just celebrated their Memorial Day during which they honor their servicemen and those who have fought for their country. During a visit to Kerta Gosa, Bali, I came across a very different kind of memorial monument. It was not to honor their heroes and victorious warriors but to remember their honorable defeat and annihilation.

Kerta Gosa was built on 1686 by the First King of Klungkung, Ida I Dewa Agung Jambe as part of his palace in Klungkung that was called Semara Pura which means 'A holy place for love and beauty'. Kerta Gosa consists of two buildings (
Bale akerta gosa and Bale Kambang) set within a garden and lake complex called Taman Gili. The former functioned as a Court of Justice and the latter which was beautifully positioned in the centre of the gardens, functioned as a meeting place or an audience hall for the King. It is also called the Floating Hall as it is surrounded by a lake.

Both these buildings have elaborately decorated ceilings consisting of panels painted in the two-dimensional "wayang" or puppet style and have been called Bali's Sistine Chapel. The paintings centre round the journey of Bima Swarga through heaven and hell to try to rescue and redeem his parent's soul. In turn though, it reminded convicts awaiting trial the kind of suffering and punishments that await them in hell. Some of these are quite grotesque.

(video & photos by LGS)

Just across the road from Kerta Gosa is another all together different monument. It is called the Puputan monument and it and the painting below remembers the tragic end of the kingdom. Puputan refers to the suicidal last stand of the local defenders in the face of overwhelming odds.
Those that could would die fighting but others including women would ritually commit suicide rather than be subject to rule by foreign conquerors. A number of notable puputans occured in Bali between 1906-1908. Such a disaster happened at Klungkung Palace on 18th April 1908 when faced with invading Dutch soldiers equipped with modern firepower. The battle was completely one-sided and several thousands were killed.

This is the ugly side of colonialisation and imperialism and its human costs to the practically defenceless local populations and this too should never be forgotten.


the watercats said...

human nature has such an ugly face when it chooses to....

Ruslan said...

Interesting post, squirrel. It's true that most monuments are dedicated to victories.

Sally's World said...

great post...its so true that so much gets forgotten!

mago said...

The German word "Denkmal" has something in itself ...
What a wonderful idea to have a place of beauty, balance, and justice, where they all meat, come together or origin, different emanations of one source.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

humans are capable of great beauty as well as horrors. THis place exemplifies both.

I think this is a monument to the end of a way of life.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I always try to imagine what it must have been for these people going through such terrible times.

I agree with you. It feels as if beauty, balance and justice and indeed life is as one.

Owen said...

I sit in humble awe and grateful recognition of your erudition and your will to share your wealth of experience.

Although I was kidding when responding to your earlier Squirrel 101 post as to why we read blogs... no kidding at all here when re-affirming that we read blogs to fill in the gaps in our incomplete education (speaking only for myself, of course). Thanks for sharing this incredible story with supporting video... I'd never heard of these incidents.

Janice Thomson said...

A fascinating and powerful post of a different view Lgs. I'd not heard of these events either - as the above comment states we learn much from reading well-informed blogs.

Jocelyn said...

I appreciate such memorials more than the pomp and circumstance--the self-righteous ones. More realistic, more human, are those that admit people have suffered.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Puputan reminds me of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in which the inhabitants fought back against the Nazis even though they were practically unarmed and their situation was hopeless.

This was a fascinating post and history lesson. A holy place for love and beauty is such a beautiful concept.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Knowledge is meant for sharing. I happen to be interested in history and the origins of people and ethnic groups, so i keep an eye out for these things when traveling. Of course, Bali is in my part of the world so I have an advantage there.

I think there are stories like this all over the world, we just need to seek them out. I am thinking that in BC, stories of the Northwest Pacific Native Peoples would be a real treasure trove.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I agree. These types are more real and therefore more poignant. In this case, a relatively peaceful and just kingdom comes to an end after more than 300 years in such a tragic manner.

I am not 100% certain but I believe the root meaning of Puputan is actually "extinction". It therefore refers to the act and moment of extinction of a race and a culture.

the walking man said...

There is honor in remembering them who die fighting for their freedom. The victor get's the spoils but not always the honor.

Molly said...

I've probably said this before, but I always come away from here better informed.Reminds me of stories my F-I-L tells about how Stalin murdered tens of thousands of Ukrainians in WW Two. We are shocked and outraged and swear "never again." But you only have to open a newspaper to know attrocities are alive and well in the modern world too. Unfortunately.

xup said...

“This is the ugly side of colonialisation and imperialism” – is there a “non-ugly” side?

geewits said...

What a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing your pictures. Before we went to Hawaii in 2004, we bought a book about Hawaii and I read the history and it reminded me a little of that. These happy island people doing their own thing and then these "advanced" civilizations show up and, well, that's the end of that.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

What you said is very true. However, I sometimes wonder also whether dying with honor makes any sense when it does nothing to change things as was the case of Puputan. It does not really change history but becomes only a side note. I wonder if the advice "run away to fight another day" is better.

I guess we who know and care have to keep talking about it especially to the new generations.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Well, some colonial masters did do some good like schools, hospitals etc. But when they treat the colonised as lesser humans, then it can be very ugly.

There is a story from Singapore that newly arrived British soldiers (before WWII) were advised by their superior officers during orientation that if they were ever to run down a Chinaman with a military vehicle, they should run him over again to make sure he is dead. Cause if he lives, there would be a lot of paper work. Now that is an ugly attitude.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Yes, I guess it happened in Hawaii too and many other places. Sometimes the local cultures achieved more happiness than modern society and exposure to modern society only caused them to lose their happiness.

the walking man said...

Yet if one must die better to do it for a reason than just in a mindless slaughter.

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