Lontar or palm leaf manuscripts are important cultural artifact which prove Balinese intellectual in preserving life lesson and philosophies. This literature was written in Sanskrit using traditional Bali script. The tradition of writing in lontar has been passed from generation to generation that formed a cultural identity making Balinese different from any other societies in Indonesia.
For Balinese society, lontar manuscript is not only thoughtful but it is also sacred since they believe that the manuscript is a manifestation of spiritual conscience. It was a representative symbol of Sang Hyang Aji Saraswati, the goddess of intellectual and knowledge of Balinese society.
In Bali, this goddess of intellectual and literature is portraited as a woman with four hands, which each her hands hold four elements. These elements are prayer beads (Gentiri), lontar manuscript (Kropak), fiddle (Wina), and a lotus flower.
The existence of lontar manuscript brought by Sarasvati has become an important sign that show a fundamental aspect applied on overall Balinese cultural activities. As a spiritual value, the lontar manuscript is often used for teach spiritual and philosophies which lessons are still relevant for today’s Balinese religious events.
Preserving Tradition for Future Generation
Lontar manuscripts had been passed from generation to generation for hundreds of years. The literature is also considered a living tradition since there are still several lontar manuscript writers that keep on writing this intellectual tradition. The writer who is also called pengawi is usually not a common person. They master the knowledge of Balinese literature, culture, religious values and also the Bali scripts itself.
The spiritual practice of writing on lontar also requires intellectual and intuitive pengawi. They normally start the process by performing religious ceremony that is expected to bring them safety as well as smooth process and excellent results.
Although there are several pengawi that keep practicing the tradition, the successors of Bali stakeholders are afraid that one day they cannot read or even witness this artifact. The young people who concern in this situation are trying to digitalize the writing scripts in order to make them more versatile and accessible by wider audience.