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Raffles Bali - The Story of Balinese House Architecture
January 10th 2023

The Story of Balinese House Architecture

Curated Cultural Guest Activity at Raffles Bali.

Bali, widely known as “The Island of Gods,” is a place steeped in history and culture, a surviving fragment of a once-mighty Hindu empire, enchants in every moment with its spiritual feel.

Raffles Bali is a place where stories are told, cultures collide, and it is an oasis of emotional wellbeing, providing discerning travel connoisseurs with the luxury of space and time in sublime Raffles style. The luxury hotel has curated one of the favourite cultural guest activities, the “Balinese House Visit.” Embark on a cultural exploration journey and marvel at the sight of a stunning Balinese traditional house. Learn the immaculate concept of Asta Kosala Kosali, where each and every compound constructed has profound meaning and values.

Asta Kosala Kosali is the vernacular architecture tradition of Bali that follows a strict ancient architectural guide characterised by its reliance on local needs, construction materials, and traditions specific to its particular location. Therefore, you will see different Balinese house architecture in different regions of Bali. Traditional Balinese buildings seek to be in harmony with the environment and are built almost entirely of organic materials such as thatch roofing, bamboo poles, woven bamboo, coconut wood, teak wood, brick, and stone.

Balinese people are known for their artistry. They have developed a sophisticated sculpting tradition that manifests in architecture rich with ornamentation and interior decoration. Balinese temples and palaces are lavishly ornamented with rich ornamentation, both wooden and stone sculpting, and typically depicting floral patterns.

As with most traditional houses in Indonesia, spatial orientation and hierarchy are crucial considerations. The concept is based on the Hindu dharma principle: every object in the universe is conceived as having an ideal location, which must be correctly aligned at all times in order to achieve harmony with the universe, and thus moksha—the point of liberation where a human achieves a perfect state of being—can be achieved. The placement of objects in Balinese architecture naturally plays an important role in achieving this.

A typical Balinese residential compound is dominated by pavilions (bale), which surround a central courtyard (natah). These pavilions acted as rooms in the western equivalent of domestic houses; each pavilion had its own function. Different architectural elements within the compound are laid out according to the Balinese conception of the sacred and profane within the cardinal points. Each Balinese house mostly has Natah (courtyard), Sanggah Kemulan (family shrine), Bale Daja (north pavilion), Bale Dangin (east pavilion), Bale Dauh (west pavilion), Bale Delod (south pavilion), Paon (kitchen), Lumbung (harvest storage), Kandang Celeng (pig stable), Lawang (main entrance), Aling-aling (barrier), and Sanggah Pengijeng Karang (guardian temple).

In Balinese culture, the first day of the construction of a new house pavilion is a crucial matter. Before construction begins, the prospective house owner will consult an expert to choose the most auspicious day in the Balinese calendar to start construction. Ritual will also be enacted just before construction; offerings are placed in the foundations with the hope that the construction will go smoothly. The ceremony is called Mendem Pedagingan.

Finally, after the completion of a house’s construction, a final cleansing ritual called the Melaspas must be enacted in order to prepare the new house pavilion to be occupied.