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Bali: Sekala and Niskala Paperback – 11 Jan 2010
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"The best book on bali for the serious visitor…Has the freshness of personal experience."—Dr. Hildred Geertz, author of Kinship in bali and Professor of Anthropology at Princeton university
in bali, what you see—sekala—is a colorful world of ceremony, ritual, dance, and drama. What you don't see what is occult—niskala—is the doctrine underlying the pageants, the code underlying the rites, and the magic underlying the dance. in this book, author Fred Eiseman explores both tangibles and intangibles in the realm of balinese religion, ritual, and performing arts.
The essays collected here topics ranging from Hindu mythology to modern gamelan music. Eiseman's approach is that of a dedicated reporter in love with his subject—he has the knowledge and patience to explain the near–infinite permutations of the balinese calendar, and yet he is still moved by the majesty of the great Eka Dasa Rudra ceremony. The author's 28 years experience on the island shows, and this book rewards close reading—even by the most seasoned students of balinese culture.
About the Author
Fred Eiseman's 28 years of experiences in bali and his love of balinese culture prompted him to write this book.
Top Customer Reviews
In the Eighties I used to see Fred Eiseman, with a notebook and pen in his hand, at temple ceremonies all over the island, and in my restaurant, taking voluminous notes. I often wondered what he was up to.
Now I know. He has produced the most detailed descriptions yet of most aspects of Balinese life and culture. He lives down in Jimbaran on the south coast, so many of his descriptions relate particularly to that area - practices change a bit in different places.
He understands the Balinese language, which is not the case with many academics, who visit Bali briefly and write learned treatises, and don't always get it right.
Fred's book is extremely well researched, and my only criticism is the detail (in places) and the repetition. That is because the book is a collection of essays. It does mean, however, that you can dip in and out of any chapter. They are self-contained, and that is useful.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
As one reviewer said, "he has produced the most detailed descriptions yet of most aspects of Balinese life and culture. He lives down in Jimbaran on the south coast, so many of his descriptions relate particularly to that area - practices change a bit in different places. He understands the Balinese language, which is not the case with many academics, who visit Bali briefly and write learned treatises, and don't always get it right."
The Sekala and Niskala are ways of saying 'the seen and the unseen," the outward appearances of things and all the symbolic, or mystical, or ritual meanings of all the things he describes. The book is not a tourist guide to places--it's a guide to what makes Bali the fascinating place it is beyond the beaches, massages, and spas. I didn't read it until after I'd come to Bali; but a friend read it before coming and said it really helped him understand some of the things he saw. So either can work--I carry it around on my Kindle and refer to it often.
I would recommend this book to people who find the Bali life around them fascinating and want to know the 'why' of so many aspects of it. From ceremonies to masks to why garbage is placed in a certain part of the house compound, he provides the answers. Because the book is essays you can go to any chapter and not feel like you should have started at the beginning.
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