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Palm-Leaf Manuscript in Bali Nowadays

Palm-Leaf Manuscript in Bali Nowadays

Author: Sidarta Wijaya
Publication: Blog.Baliwww.com
Date: April 29, 2009
URL: http://blog.baliwww.com/miscellaneous/4603

Before the introduction of paper as writing material to the paradise island of Bali, Balinese use specially processed palm leaves known as lontar to record details for future preservation. Despite of the popularity of paper, lontar is still being used in Bali for rendering texts, especially which are considered sacred such as history of a clan, religious practices, magic related-incantations, parts of Ramayana or Mahabharata epic, information on horoscopes, soothsaying and calendars, technical literature, science, instruction, medicine, cock fighting, etc.

The preference of using lontar to record important or sacred information is due to the popular belief that papers mar the sacredness of information or the efficacy of incantation. To the Balinese Lontar gives a sense of sacredness and holiness and since the content of the sacred information as well as the Balinese script which is used to record the information are sacred, and have a vital force, lontar is considered the perfect container for them.

Lontar is deeply venerated by Balinese, anyone who wishes to read lontar regularly needs to undergo a consecration ritual (mawinten) which must be performed by a brahman priest. Balinese believe that handling lontar in disrespectful way is very dangerous and may cause all kinds of misfortune. Lontar cannot be sold or thrown away when damaged but it can be burned with proper ceremony and offerings.

Nowdays, the popularity of lontar increases due to the growing tendency of older Balinese to transcribe and transliterate the text in relation with religious practices, atman and moksha (soul and liberation), medicine, clan history and classical literature in Old Javanese from paper to lontar. This activity is considered a religious penance in order to gain more insight to the religion and hopefully lead to proper religious conduct that will clear the path of the soul to Sunyaloka (realm of nothingness).

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