Sunday the 24th of April was the ‘peak’ day of a long succession of ceremonies at Pura Samuan Tiga, celebrated as being the place where historically various warring parties made their peace.

text and photos Rio Helmi


I arrived by mid morning, thinking I was late, but it had just started.  Back 30 years go, I felt immersed, everyone went about their rituals and prayers completely absorbed, no one really paid attention to me. This time when I first entered the temple courtyard I almost turned around an fled. There were dozens and dozens of predatory photographers in every corner, and on top of it people were flailing about with their smartphones snapping mementos of each other and selfies. It was like the temple had become a social event.

However I had gotten this far, so I thought I should stick with it, and brave the barking committee appointed security who typically operated without much rhyme or reason beyond displaying their newly deputized power. To be fair, I can understand the need for this nowadays, what with tourists trampling through and local gawkers draped in the most expensive photo gear they could buy.

Soon however the ritual took the upper hand. Priestesses did a ritual ‘Sutri’ dance circumbulating the temple for what seemed hours, then they were joined by hundreds of male ‘pemedak’ (devotees).I have to be honest, the atmosphere had changed dramatically since the first time I photographed it 30 years ago.They then all joined hands and charged through every corner of the temple, gleefully pulling each other along. Finally after praying at ll the shrines, they grabbed handfuls of dried ‘sampian’ offering decorations and burst into a mad, comedic brawl with the sampian as their weapons, laughing and hooting as they went.

In minutes it was over. Again I was surprised at how tame it had become. Perhaps it is the new bourgeoisie movement that seems to sweeping through Bali, its’ hard to tell. Meanwhile in the outer courtyard scores of charming young girls performed a mass “Legong Kupu-kupu” dance, captivating the hearts of restless teenagers, desperate photo club members, and teenage boys. This is the work of legendary Ketut Arini, who at 73 didn’t hesitate to join her charges; a touch of drama occured when at the end of the danc eone of the girls fell into a trance, continuing to fance ina semi swoon and had to be carried out – the kind of thing the Balinese do without blinking an eye.

The final show was the the “reconstructed Legong Kupu-kupu”, the product of months of hard work by veteran Balinese dancer/princess Wulan Tresna Djelantik and her group. Elegant, understated, captivating performance by mature ladies rather than the usual young girls. Bravo.

DSCF3194a little gambling on the side before any of the action started.

DSCF3343The sutri ritual dance starts, circumbulating the temple inner courtyard.

DSCF3436The ‘pemedek’ devotees join hands and charge through the temple

DSCF3565no corner of the inner courtyard untouched…

DSCF3666And a sudden melee bursts out…

DSCF3661Which soon fizzles out

DSCF3771Meanwhile the action moves to the outer courtyard with a mass dance by scores of girls

DSCF3847a captivating sight for the hordes of hungry phtographers

DSCF3883The legendary Ni Ketut Arini , neaar centre, at 73 is still plenty spry.

DSCF3901And one of the girls can’t resist falling into trance

DSCF3919And for the finale, the elegant, slightly understated, reconstruction of the original Legong Kupu-kupu.

What a day!