featured article
Wooden bell
plays significant
roles in Bali

The existence of the kulkul (wooden bell) is inseparable from social life in Bali. It is an integral part of Balinese religious and cultural activities, as well as being a unique part of the banjar (Balinese traditional social organization).

The kulkul is usually hung inside the pavilion standing on four pillars with a thatched or tiled roof. The pavilion is often placed on a square shaped tower constructed of sandstone and brick. This pavilion is locally known as bale kulkul ("a place where the wooden bell is hung").

The bale kulkul and the bale banjar are a well-matched pair, and are placed in the same yard. The kulkul is sometimes in the tower of the bale banjar. It maintains its important role as an easily recognised and readily available instrument. The bale kulkul is built at the front corner of the bale banjar yard.

Being at the top of a tower, the sound can be heard over a large distance and immediately attracts members' attention. Since in a village there are several banjars, each banjar has its own kulkul, and the distinctive sound will enable members to distinguish that the one being beaten is their own.

The signal that is beaten out on the kulkul can be understood through its rhythms. The various kinds of rhythms produced are referred to as "tabuh". It carries a message of happiness, grief or regular events such as notification of marriage of a banjar member, emergency news of the death of a member, signal for help of a house burning, the regular monthly meeting and reminding members to be present at their collaborate project.

In addition, the kulkul can always be found in the temple, and is located at the front corner of the temple yard. The kulkul pavilion, in this case, can be a simple or elaborate, depending on the type of temple. The beat of the kulkul in the temple indicates the beginning and end of ceremonies. At times, it is also beaten during the actual course of a ceremony.

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