We take a closer look about the philosophy of Nyegara Gunung in the context of Benoa Bay.
For centuries, the wisdom that can be literally translated as the ‘ridge to reef’ philosophy has been an integral part of life in Bali. Nyegara means the sea and gunung means the mountain. Both is an inseparable entity and affects one another. When something happens in the mountain, it will affects the sea and vice versa. Everything is in balance when the downstream and the upstream are working well.
Water as the force of nature between the ridge and the reef is essential and sacred. So much so, Bali’s Hindu is renowned as the religion of holy water. There is no ceremony or ritual in Bali which can be conducted without the sprinkle of holy water. Water sources such as the holy springs, lakes, rivers, and the sea plays their parts for the purpose of purification and therefore are considered as sacred areas, to be conserved and protected at all cost.
“Nyegara means the sea and gunung means the mountain. Both is an inseparable entity and affects one another”
In the context of Benoa Bay, it is already made clear by the Indonesia Hinduism Society (PHDI) that the bay is considered as sacred. Sugi Lanus, a Balinese scholar of ancient language and literature, has even made a thorough mapping of the bay over the years to identify the sacred places in the area. “There are 60 sacred spots in the Benoa Bay area that includes 24 temples where the Hindus visit for praying, 19 estuaries, and 17 small islets,” said Sugi. His interviews and surveys with the local communities, priests, and spiritual figures confirmed the fact that Benoa Bay is a meeting point of the seen and the unseen, the sekala and niskala. After all, the Hindus have been praying in the temples there for hundreds of years.
The geographer, David Zurick, in his article “A Spiritual Landscape” aptly stated that: “The water temples thus conspicuously anchor the supernatural world of Bali within the environmental cycles of the island, and they situate the material well-being of the Balinese within a larger spiritual order that defines for the entire island a sacred landscape mandala, which connects the volcanoes, mountain lakes and springs, rice fields, and ocean in a cosmic map”. On top of the spiritual significance of the bay, there are also the rich biodiversity and marine life, as characteristically can be found in a wetland.
Drive your car on the picturesque Bali Mandara Highway and you can see for yourself the massive wetlands where Mother Nature has designed and put to protect its surrounding environment. It is a flood control, water purification, carbon sink, and provides the surrounding shoreline with stability. The ancestors knew this and made sure that the wisdom is passed on through generations, thus ensuring the area’s protection. It is now up to us to decide how to conserve and use it wisely.