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Surprising Art and Craft Villages

The neighboring villages of Batubulan, Celuk and Singapadu are the first in a series of surprising art and craft centers that one encounters going north along the main road from Denpasar toward Ubud. These villages have garnered fame for a variety of skills: Batubulan for its barong dance and stone carving, Singapadu for its gong saron and gong gede music, and Celuk for its silver and goldsmith.

Batubulan: home of the barong

Ten km northeast of Denpasar, Batubulan is a village known throughout Bali for its ornate door-guardian statues, carved of soft paras volcanic tuff. Until these became popular for secular use earlier in this century, the carvings were only used in temples or palaces, but this art form has spread extensively in recent years and is today found in homes and public buildings. Made Leceg and Made Sura, two of the most famous carvers of the area, continue the legacy of their mentor, the late Made Loji. Both have shops on the main road where carvings can be purchased and packed and shipped home.

Batubulan is also home to three famous Barong Dance troupes who perform seven times a week at 9.30am on their own stages before bus-loads of enthralled tourists. The development of these groups parallels that of tourism in Bali, but even so the Batubulan barong troupes are relatively young. The first the Danjalan Barong Group, was established in 1970, while the Tegaltamu and Puri Agung groups were formed later. The three troupes also perform on a large stage that was constructed especially for this purpose in the outer courtyard of Pura Puseh Bendul in 1986.

While in the neighborhood, Pura Puseh Batubulan is well worth visiting. Four statues of Wisnu poised on carved pedestals embellished with Tantri tales guard the temple. If you care to shop for antiques, Puri Sakana on the main road offers an extensive range of antique reproductions, furniture and beads.

Celuk: jewelry of silver and gold

Although many arts and crafts have prospered in Celuk, the village has evolve, into a center for silver and gold smiting. Almost every home in the village contains small scale production facilities fulfilling orders placed by large shops and exporters. Bracelets, rings, earrings and brooches, to name a few of a wide range of products produced here, have started to enter the export market.

The silver and gold craft trade was pioneered by the Beratan clan of smiths (pande). Nowadays most Celuk residents, whether or not they are members of the Pande clan, have become gold and silversiniths. Made Kawi and Wayan Kardana are among the better craftsmen. Be sure to bargain.

Along the main road between Batubulan and Celuk you will find about 40 art shops, most of which sell gold and silver jewelry. Keraton Gold and Silver Collection, Celuk Silver and Aditya Art Shop have particularly good selections. Other shops, such as Wirama Antiques and Modern Art and Bali Souvenir, sell masks, statues, old basketry and textiles, among other things.

Singapadu: village of the 'twin kings'

The history of the small village of Singapadu, just up the road from Batubulan, goes back to the reign of I Dewa Kaleran, a king of Kalianget who assisted the ruler of Sukawati, I Dewa Agung Anom, to defeat the king of Mengwi with the aid of two powerful kerises.

As an expression of gratitude and to strengthen family ties, I Dewa Agung Anom offered his sister to be Dewa Kaleran's bride. Impatient at the long wait for his sister's pregnancy, I Dewa Agung then presented another princess to Dewa Kaleran, this time one who was already pregnant. This princess gave birth to a boy, called I Dewa Agung Api. Meanwhile, Dewa Agung's first wife also became pregnant and gave birth to another son, Dewa Kaleran Sakti. With the birth of both sons, two princes had rights to the throne, and the name singha-padu meaning "twin lions" was given to the place.

Some believe that Dewa Kaleran's sacred keris, Sekar Sandat, possesses creative powers and has therefore helped dance, music and carving to flourish in the area. In the past Singapadu was known as a center for dance and music. Unfortunately, these groups have today largely withered away. However, barong and legong groups continuing the traditions of the past can be found in Banjar sungguan. At one time these dance groups only entertained locals in temples, but now, they perform for tourists at the large hotels.

Apart from the gong gede, a type of gamelan which most banjars in Singapadu possess,
two banjars, namely Apuan and Seseh, have an older type of gamelan known as the gong saron. This is mainly used to accompany death ceremonies, as the tones produced are thought to express sadness and sorrow. The seven-key xylophones of the gong saron differ from the 10-key gangsa of a typical gamelan.

Many well-known dancers have come from Singapadu, such as Wayan Griya, Ketut Rujag, Wayan Kengguh, Made Kerdek and Ni Ketut Senun. Today, there are many good ones left, such as Nyoman Cerita, Ketut Kodi, Ni Nyoman Candri and Ketut Rumita. Made Raos, another prominent dancer, is one of Singapadu's best barong (bapang) dancers. Two other prominent figures in the field of dance, Dr I Made Bandem, Rector of the Indonesian Institute of the Arts (ISI) in Yogyakarta, and Dr. I Wayan Dibia, Director of STSI (the Academy of Music and Dance) in Denpasar, are also natives of Singapadu.

In the field of topeng and barong mask making, the late Cokorda Oka's mastery has now been handed down to his pupils, I Wayan Tangguh, Cokorda Raka Tisnu and Nyoman Juala. Wayan Pugeg and Ketut Muja also exhibit great talent in carving wood statues.

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