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Posted in Villages, What to See

Trunyan, the Mysterious Bali Native Village

The village of Trunyan, or Terunyan (pop. 600), is located on the eastern shores of Lake Batur, just on the foot of the Mount Abang, Kintamani district of Bangli regency. Trunyan village is believed to be found during 882-914 AD (referring to the founding of a temple to Batara Da Tonta), inhabited by descendants of the native Balinese – the Bali Aga. As a tourist object, Trunyan is surely the best-known Bali Aga village, but becoming notorious as a place not to visit after all in the same time.

Having been isolated from the other part of the island for centuries, the village of Trunyan is more or less secluded from the rest of the island. The people of Bali Aga receive hardly any influence from the ‘new’ Balinese people who just came in 13th century after the Majapahit invasion. Culturally and ethnically outside the Balinese mainstream, aboriginal Trunyan people provides evidence of how Bali’s earliest people lived. To this day, the people of Trunyan retain a social order aligned with prehistoric traditions. Caste system is not known here as well as cremations like the other Hindu tradition in Bali. Instead, they simply leave the body on the ground to decompose naturally.

Living as farmers or fishermen, the standard of living of the Bali Aga people relatively very low, compare to most Balinese. Although they grow cabbage, onions, and corn in plots near the lakeshore, the Bali Aga has no rice fields. Since ancient times they’ve relied on begging to supplement their meager diet. Up until now, most Trunyan keep secretive and protective about the customs exclusive to their community. Living in isolated seclusion, the last Balinese aborigines fiercely safeguarding their own culture through the conviction that they are descended from the gods. Despite their exceptional conservatism and resistance to change, a proportion of the younger men have had to leave the village in order to find work. Their harsh expressions mirror everyday hard life. However, begging tradition continued. For Trunyan people, it is okay to beg. Upon visitor arrival, the villagers will wade out to clamor for money.

Trunyan village has been famous for their Pura Pancering Jagat (meaning ‘temple of the navel of the world’), but unfortunately visitors are not allowed inside. There is also a traditional couple Bali Aga-style housing and unique ‘Bale Agung’, where the council of elders makes their decisions. The great hall (as its meaning) is one of the largest traditional buildings on Bali. Other traditional architectural oddities include special boys’ and girls’ clubhouses (“Bale Truna” and “Bale Daha”), a pavilion where married women meet (Bale Loh), and a great wooden ferris wheel put in motion during ceremonial occasions.

The people keep hidden the 4-metre-high statue of ‘Ratu Gede Pusering Jagat’, the powerful patron guardian of the village. This megalithic statue is fiercely guarded and attributed with magical powers, and only viewed at the time of the temple ‘odalan’, the anniversary ceremony that takes place in Trunyan around the October full moon.

But it is a mysterious cemetery that is separated by the lake near sub-village Kuban that attracts the biggest attention. Only accessible by boat, the ancient site has no path along steep walls of the crater rim at all. There, the air is clammy and the atmosphere is heavy and eerie. Spectacular view of this green mountain backdrop and deep blue lake with Mt. Batur to the east was a treat: not many people get to see Bali’s most active volcano.

Today, tourists flock to the locality, now collectively known as Kintamani, to experience the other side of Bali. Trunyan villages and cemetery together with the panoramic scenery of the mountain and lake offer different vacation option.