One of Petulu’s Sacred Heron
A period of mass murder blighted the islands of Indonesia in 1965, when more than 5% of the population of Bali were massacred. The small village of Petulu, located a few miles north of Ubud is home to mass graves from this terrible period in the island’s history.
In the last week of October 1965, the villagers decided to hold a cleansing ceremony, and on November 7 large numbers of herons arrived in Petulu for the first time. A welcome ceremony followed for the herons, during which the officiating priest fell into a trance, and learned that the birds were there to guard the village. It is believed that they are the lost souls of those who died in the massacres.
Herons return to Petulu at dusk
When I heard the story of Petulu, I put a village visit at the top of my holiday wish list. I learned that the herons forage for food (mainly eels), from dawn till dusk, so I hired a local taxi driver – Erick- to collect me in time for their evening return to the village. As we arrived, the trees were filling with birds, many of them nesting. It was a truly wondrous sight.
Nesting in the trees
“There is a warung (cafe) over there, where you can sit and watch,” Erick suggested.
The warung among the paddy fields
So I tentatively stepped along a little path through the paddy fields, and joined half a dozen others watching the heron spectacle. A little later, I gazed in wonder through a pair of complementary binoculars and marvelled at such a beautiful miracle, after the atrocities of the past.
Each and every day of my visits to Bali in 2013 and 2014 were blessed with beauty. In my next post I will share my experiences of a royal cremation ceremony.
My memoir “Watching the Daisies” includes many stories of my time in Bali, together with journeys to India, Rome, Morocco, Lourdes…