Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



In Approaching Textiles, Varying Viewpoints: Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2000


Copyright © 2000 by the author(s).


Vanishing Balinese embroideries provide local people with a direct means of honoring their gods and transmitting important parts of their narrative cultural heritage, especially themes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. These epics contain all the heroes, preferred and disdained personality traits, customary morals, instructive folk tales, and real and mythic historic connections with the Balinese people and their rich culture.

A long ider-ider embroidery hanging engagingly from the eaves of a Hindu temple depicts supreme gods such as Wisnu and Siwa or the great mythic heroes such as Arjuna and Hanuman. It connects for the Balinese faithful, their life on earth with their heavenly tradition. Displayed as an offering on outdoor family shrines, a small lamak embroidery of much admired personages such as Rama, Sita, Krisna and Bima reflects the high esteem in which many Balinese hold them up as role models of love, fidelity, bravery or wisdom. Used as a ritual house decoration, a tabing embroidery that depicts the great god Wisnu astride his fierce eagle-like vehicle, Garuda, or the malevolent giant warrior, Kumbakarna, demonstrates the Balinese deep belief in the personified symbols of force and power that threaten and/or enhance their daily lives. The embroidering on these cloths of scores of ghosts, giants, nymphs, ogres, witches and weird creatures reflects a particular Balinese/ Hindu cosmos in which the Balinese strongly believe that the unseen arbitrary upper world and the seen lower one on earth are inseparable and must be seriously taken into account in ceremonies and rituals.