The Nusantara Festival took place at the unusual setting of Mount Batur, an active volcano in Bali, earlier this month. Organized by local communities, this 10-day festival aims to celebrate the diversity of Indonesian culture. (JG Photo/Nadia Bintoro)

Festival on Bali's Mount Batur Celebrates Culture and Biodiversity

AUGUST 18, 2015

An unusual setting that includes sharp lava rocks, cold mountain weather and dry grass springing out of the barren tufa provided the venue for the opening of the Nusantara Festival on Aug. 9.

Amid the majestic views of the Mount Batur volcano in Bali, the festival was held as a celebration of Indonesia’s rich cultural narratives. The 10-day festival, which featured collaborative acts, music performances and meditation classes, ended on Monday, with participants hiking Mount Batur for a flag-raising ceremony at the summit.

The festival is the first of seven series to be held annually. It is organized by a group of communities with special concerns for Indonesian culture. They are Yayasan Wisnu, the Bali Life Center, Gigir Manuk Community, Wingkang Ranu Community, and AMAN (the Alliance of Indigenous People in Indonesia).

This year, the Nusantara Festival went under the theme “The Civilization of the Sun,” in recognition of the sun as the primary source of energy for life on Earth.

“This is especially fundamental, especially in Bali, where the Balinese retain this holistic local wisdom of the civilization of the sun through the Pawukon Nusantara calendar system,” says Ngurah Paramartha, the chairman of the Nusantara Festival.

Mount Batur was specifically chosen for its natural and cultural importance in Balinese life and culture. Located in Bangli district, about 90 kilometers north of the island’s southern tourist milieu, Mount Batur is a favorite for hikers. It rises 1,717 meters above sea level and is an active volcano. Its stunning caldera and the surrounding region were decreed Indonesia’s first entry into the Unesco Global Geopark Network in 2012.

The mountain also holds special importance to the culture and the life of all Balinese. The region hosts 11 water sources that supply the unique subak (traditional irrigation system) used in Bali’s lush rice terraces.

“Five of the life elements exist in Batur. It’s the perfect place to start something, as this is where all begins,” Paramartha says.

Guests at the opening day included Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, who represented President Joko Widodo; Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples; and Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika. AMAN brought delegates from 21 provinces to perform traditional dances and songs, from the North Sumatra to Sulawesi and Papua.

One of the performers during the first day of the festival was renowned international musician and native Balinese Ayu Laksmi, She enchanted the audience with her poetry and prose about the loving relationship between mankind, the universe and the Almighty. Ayu performed songs in Indonesian and English, along with mantras in traditional Sanskrit, while her talented band Svara Semesta combined traditional gamelan with modern music.

Harpist Maya Hasan is also among the performers at the festival.

Other than arts and cultural performances, the festival was also filled with various other activities, including Balinese ceremonies, showcases of handmade traditional products from across the nation through the AMAN Gerai Nusantara bazaar, a charity event, and a clean-up-the-lake day.

Paramartha says the organizers chose to hold the festival in August, traditionally held as the month of abundance of grace and glory.

“It was just fitting, because on this month our founding fathers declared the independence of our country, which was originally named Nusantara,” he says. “We wish to deliver this festival as our appreciation and to highlight the historical importance of the 70-year celebration of Indonesia Independence Day.”

Themes for this festival over the next six years have already been set: Moon (2016), Space (2017), Wind (2018), Water (2019), Mother Earth (2020), and Spirituality (2021). Each theme is meant as a celebration of Indonesia’s culture and biodiversity.