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From Palm-leaf to Keyboards

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Probably, you have watched or are going to watch arja operetta or Ramayana Ballet during the visit in Bali. It would be more convenient if it is enjoyed while having dinner of Balinese cuisine. At the same time, you watch the beauty of culture and taste the delicacy of local culinary. You may hear the language spoken by players or puppeteer was not understandable. Of course, it is Balinese language.

As Japanese and Chinese, Balinese language also has its own characters. They consist of some 18 main characters and 10 vowel sounds. Ordinarily, Balinese characters are used to write palm-leaf manuscript or lontar. Such characters are incised with sharp knife or stylus. When the writing works have completed, they should be rubbed with a blend of oil and lamp shoot to blacken them. So they are visible easily. Since the works were performed manually, the copying of a manuscript took a long time.

At a glance, Balinese characters look like Old Javanese, Tamil (India). It is inseparable from historical aspect where they had similarity of genealogical lines. Today, Balinese characters still have restricted use, namely at school for local subject from elementary school to senior high school. It is becoming the responsibility of local government to preserve and develop Balinese language in order it could survive in the midst of the growth of other languages like Bahasa Indonesia and foreign languages.

Balinese language poses a medium and spirit of Balinese culture. To preserve Balinese culture should also simultaneously maintain and use of Balinese language in daily life. In other words, speaking Balinese language also characterizes one of the identities as a Balinese. Among the use of other languages, Balinese language should remain to give a space to grow and develop. Other than speaking and teaching it at schools, it should also accommodate the need of modern community or use in wider functions of language.

Balinese community receives abundant heritages of lontar or palm-leaf manuscripts from the predecessors retained by individuals and museums. They carry many aspects of knowledge, ranging from philosophy, local healing, literature, architecture, agriculture, herbal practice, astrology and so forth. Therefore, if they could be interpreted and presented in popular language, they could become attractive information for young generation and saleable books for commercial needs. Today, there is also a trend of poising the tradition with modern science namely by re-interpreting the indigenous wisdoms that are relevant to the current time. People will get balanced inputs from the past and current orientation.

Of course, such treasures will be beneficial for the conservation and future development of Balinese culture because it stays in touch with its original roots. Young generation should be introduced to these roots at early stage. Later, they will not lose their identity and even could feel proud of it. Moreover, it could give them inspiration in making their creativities, either in fine arts, performance, traditional architecture or herbal healings.

Thanks to modern technology, the writing of Balinese characters now can be made easy by Bali Simbar font. It is the innovative thinking of I Made Suatjana (1986) lies behind the composing of this font. His work has helped the writing of Balinese characters in word processing application like Microsoft Word. Hopefully, there would be more creative software helping the development and learning of Balinese language so it would not come into extinction or be far left behind with the modern life.

Last changed: Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 10:00 am

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