Tjokorda Raka Kerthyasa – Asta Kosala Kosali

Tjokorda Raka Kerthyasa – pic by Mark Ulyseas

Thus Spake Prince Tjokorda Raka Kerthyasa
On Asta Kosala Kosali
– The Balinese Architectural Code
– Pics and Text by Marculyseas

This is a conversation with the Prince of the Ubud Royal family who has spoken at length about the Balinese way of constructing homes. Often expats have fallen foul of the religious and social norms while building due to ignorance of the customs that are intrinsic to the Balinese way of living in harmony with their surroundings.

I met Tjokkorda Raka Kerthyasa at his residence next to Ibah, a sprawling luxury hotel owned by him to talk about the meaning of Asta Kosala Kosali. This is what he had to say.

“It is a system…traditional Balinese method of how to divide a space for a house or temple in relation to the owner. We believe in the interconnection between macro and micro cosmos. We have a philosophy of life during transit on this planet on how to maintain harmony between human-to-human, human to the environment and human to their God. Every Balinese activity is to manifest this philosophy. So when we are building a house or temple we measure the space according to the owner that reasonates as the fundamental belief of Tatwa Philosophy, ethic and moral.

There is a ritual and spiritual aspect to this…the physical world and the non physical world. Like Desa Kala Patra – Desa is a place, Kala the time and Patra the situation and condition. So when building a place anywhere in Bali it is essential to take this into account as Bali is very complex and each area has ethnic differences. For instance, Ubud and Seminyak.

We believe in the Pancha Shrada (Five Beliefs) in God, the rule of Karma, Reincarnation, Moksa (liberation of worldly attachment) and Atman – soul. The concept of Pancha (Five) will keep appearing in this conversation and you will begin to understand the significance that will help you when you are selecting land to build a house, in design and construction and when you move into your new home.”

Here are basic simple steps to follow to keep the balance between the physical and non-physical world and to make your home one of peace, happiness and prosperity.

01. When you have decided to invest in a piece of land meet the Heads of the village of that area which is the Klian Banjar and the Klian Adat.

02. The Klian Banjar is where the legal formalities are done and where your status in the community is written decided etc. The Klian Banjar scrutinises all legal papers to ensure all are in order.

03. The Klian Adat is religious head who will advise and guide you on the rituals that need to be followed prior to commencing construction, the floor plan and most important whether the land is suitable of living on as some places are considered “bad” e.g. a house situated at a T junction or land that was formerly a cemetery. It is suggested that you concult the villagers in the area to check if the land is “good”.

04. The position of the land is not important but when you build a house and or temple it has to be recognised where the East or the North. The temple has to be positioned in the North East and the house facing usually south. The head of your bed has to facing east or North. The land must have sufficient morning and evening sun.

05. Proportions of the layout of the floor plan for the land are based on the concept of Trianga, which are head, body and legs of the owner.

06. The buildings on your land will have to be measured by human feet. In fact the measurement is done using the actual feet size of the owner! After every seven feet a half-foot is added which is called the Urip. Urip means life or living. If we don’t have space like Urip we will not have a spirit and therefore no breathe of life.

07. Once you have purchased the land the first thing to do is to follow the local customs and religious ceremonies to bless the land and construct the temple, which must be the first building on the site. We have to bury Panch Datu (Five elements), which is gold, silver, iron and ruby as they represent our body and the micro cosmos. Our material base is related to the same elements that are Earth (gold), Water (iron), Fire (copper), Air (silver), Ether (ruby). You probably are aware that we are made from Butha (character of wood), Kala (animal instinct) and Dewa (Gods and Goddesses). Only in Bali do people bury these precious materials but others mine it. The five elements vibrate life and that’s why people feel at home in Bali.

Just a word of caution here: the temple or Padma Sana must be venerated according the Balinese way of life like making regular floral offerings etc. The neighbours must have access to the Padma Sana to place their offerings. Do not dissuade or prevent them from doing so.

08. Once the land has been blessed and the Padma Sana installed the first phase is complete. Now the measurements of the building is done using the owner’s feet size, outstretched arms and hands on the hip! Yes, have you ever wondered why the Balinese doors to the entrance to their homes are so narrow? Well the measurement is done of the width of the owner with his hands on his hips – elbow to elbow.

09. To tune into the “harmonious vibrations” one must consult the expert who is called Undagi.

10. The most important ceremony once the construction is complete is making it alive with rituals performed by holy men. This is symbolic of giving life to the building and thus creating a living being. It is for this reason that every house in Bali has a shrine or Padma Sana because it is a part of the owner; The building and the owner become one.

11. We believe in Pancha Shrada (Five Beliefs) in God, the rule of Karma, Reincarnation, Moksa (liberation of worldly attachment), and Atman (Soul). Therefore, when constructing it is essential to maintain a balance with the environment in terms of design, aesthetics, co-existence to other residences and religious places in the vicinity.”

After a nice cuppa tea and some fried banana fritters, Tjokorda Raka Kerthyasa, took me to the palace and then onto Pura Taman kemuda Saraswati, the Lotus Temple built by his father Tjkorda Ngurah and Gusti Nyoman Lempad, a short distance away. To begin explaining the intricate details of layout, ornamentation and aesthetics will take up a thousand pages.

What you have to keep in mind is that Bali is a very special place where the Gods and Goddesses of the land hold sway over the immortals. You have to abide by the rules, rituals and pay obeisance to them otherwise your home here will never be a home. It will probably be a place that will cause you much unhappiness. This is not superstition but common sense. Living in harmony with your surroundings is an integral aspect of fine living.

And in the words of Tjokorda Raka Kerthyasa,

“Wherever you stand up, you are holding the sky above your head”.