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Continuing Struggle Between the Sacred and the Profane in Bali

Demolishment of Two Balinese Temples in Sanur Makes Front Page News in Bali and Local Villagers Very Angry.

(10/20/2007) Local villagers and community leaders in Sanur's Mertasari beach area are reportedly offended and angered by the actions of property developer who demolished two religious temples, supposedly to make way for a new resort project.

The land, registered to PT Restu Maharani was occupied by the investor on August 16, 2006 as part of a court-ordered seizure following a lengthy civil court action.

Local community and religious leaders complained that the demolishment of Pura Ketapang and Pura Sembyangan took place on October 1, 2007 while people of the surrounding village were busy attending a local cremation ceremony.

The temples destroyed by the developer form an important part of the religious life of the surrounding community, serving as the location for specific ceremonies on the local religious calendar.

While community leaders admit an approach from the developer asking permission to demolish the temples had been made, they insist that no permission to carry out the "knock-down" was ever granted because of fears that such an act would be unacceptable to local residents.

In order to preserve cosmic balance and avoid natural and personal disasters that might befall those who ignore their religious obligations, Balinese temples are the site of numerous ceremonies with strict rules in place for their care and maintenance.

Whenever necessity dictates that a temple or pura must be built, demolished or moved - a number of carefully scripted ceremonies are mandated.

Developers claim that ceremonies were performed prior to demolishing the two temples, an argument rejected by the local community who question the completeness and adherence to ritual stricture of the ceremonies conducted by the owners.

The development site measuring 60,000 square meters was the object of a legal battle between the Denpasar Mayor's office who granted the permit to PT Restu Maharani and a man claiming to be the true owner of the land. In August 2006 the local courts ruled in favor of the Mayor and the developer allowing the company to take charge of the property and proceed with the resort project.