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Kulkul – Wooden Bell

Bale Kulkul 1

Kulkul is a big bell made of wood or bamboo use by various social organization of Balinese society. Like a bell it is used to indicated time of gathering, ceremony, and in the past to call the people during a strain time resulted by conflict, or criminal. Organization in Bali are various based on tradition, profession or hobby The type of the sound must be made differently and typical for each organization, so each member of the organization will soon understand to whom the bell is rang.

For the need of traditional organization kulkul is made from selected wood such as jackfruit tree, orange tree, and other hard trees, while those made of bamboo are only for temporary use or only for temporal organization such as the group called” Sekeha ” The group of sekaha is mostly related to profession such as cultivating rice, group of hired labor, group of hunting and others. Special for group of cultivating rice a barter called ” kajak ” meaning included in a group who will get assistant and in turn to assist back with the same work.

In the past to cultivate land the farmer used wooden plow dragged by 2 cows as the main tool to soft the soil and a ” lampit ” to level the soil. While to clear the remains of plants used “gabag”, see short article on cultivating rice Both gabag and lampit were dragged by 2 cows. These informal groups in the past had kulkul each of them with different color of sound, and their kulkul made of bamboo.

On the villages of highland where village and the farming areas are separated often quiet far, from 1 to 5 kms away, had forced the farmer to build a pavilion or temporary structure on the farm, but only for rest during the day or some time sleeping during certain season. The pavilion or temporary construction on the farm is called ” pondok ” opposed to ” umah ” the house in the village. The pondok always made in lower quality, compared to umah, even most were temporary in nature.

At pondok usually farmers made kulkul in various size and sound color. One kulkul is just for children playing, one is to call the poultry when feeding time come, and other to announce to anyone that the keeper of the farm is presence. This was probably to prevent some one or thief entering the land, although in the past of Bali thievery was rare, and only happened at certain area of Bali, but it had become myth of every people of Bali. Interesting to see that traditional chicken breeders could train the chicken to hear the sound of kulkul.

When it is fed the kulkul is knocked many times and all chicken will hast to the source of the sound. The training was not taking much time, and it soon understand, as every time the farmer giving them food the kulkul always knocked with the same pattern of sound, so it could form the reflect in the animal hearing. Before 1980s when most of the highland villages of Bali still could not be reached by car, the farmers looked after chicken, pigs ducks, cows and others at their pondok with or without constant watching.

They just built an open pavilion as shelter of the chicken, and it was free without cage. During the night all of their stocks were left at pondok as the family sleeping at the house in the village. It was a social condition that was almost no thief, every one had his/her own subsystem for living, and no unlimited needs as what is today. Even the children were so happy with their brothers, sisters at their age group and on certain season madekulkul of bamboo for fun.

Kulkul can be said as a symbol of organization in Balinese society with its changes very little over the millennium despite the presence of telephone, and radio as the most effective means of communication. In the past traditional organization of Balinese such as Desa organization, Banjar organization, Penabuh ( music player ) organization, youth-girl organization, security, Subak, and other temporary organizations, each has a kulkul which sound must be different from each other.

So that every member of the organization will soon realized when the kulkul is knocked, to whom the call is addressed. Since every one of Balinese can be member of more then two organizations, both formal and non formal it is a must to know with reflect differentiate between various color of kulkul sound. The use of kulkul to call members is proceeded by a short notice or without short notice who done by one of the member in charge called ” kasinoman” Usually, when the member of organization will have a work together, the head and assistants organize a preliminary meeting at the village hall called Bale Banjar.

During the head meeting the subject is discussed in short including the schedule such as the time of calling the member to join a complete meting. When the schedule has been fixed, one is assigned to give short notice to the member by visiting from door to door. The short notice will consist of information to member the brief subject and the time of meeting. On the fixed day the kulkul will be knocked to remind at once to call the member that the time has come.

During a ceremony at the temple which takes more then 2 days including preparation of offering at the temple the knocking of the kulkul will not preceded with short information from door to door, since the announcement usually given during the dismissal of the gathering. The time schedule contains in the announcement will be indicated by the sound of kulkul, even unexpected gathering to follow which is not on plan can be called only by knocking the kulkul.

Some events indicated by sound of kulkul without short door to door notice by the kasinoman are when one of the member of the village dead, married, emergency and regular meeting / work. In all events normally the sound of the kulkul is made as ” duang tulud ” meaning two rounds. One round of sound starting with slow, then quicker and quicker temp as much as knocker could do, then slowing again. When one of the village member is dead the biggest kulkul or the banjar organization owned kulkul is knocked in three round.

Since dead is the obligation of all members of the organization within a village to participate in the activity of burial and ritual. This kulkul is placed at the Bale Kulkul ( kulkul pavilion ) near the Bale Banjar.

While other kulkul that relating to organization of Desa, music player, youth-girl organization, and other organizations belong to the religious activities are place at the temple. Today with the disappearance of temporary organization at the villages, the number of kulkul also decreasing, as bigger works also decreasing. More works at the rice field or dry land tend to be sub-contracted or given to paid workers based on daily fee. At the highland with the disappearance of seasonal rice planting many temporary organizations also disappeared. The land is used to plant longer living fruits or other plantations which is expected to give more economic value.



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