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Craft&Culture: Asta Kosala Kosali | Bali & Beyond Magazine
Asta Kosala Kosali

World Architecture From Time To Time
If we look at the history of world architecture, there are many surprises in every period of human civilization, even when we look back at all the creations made prior to the B.C. epoch. Some believe that UFO’s brought the knowledge to earth, teaching the B.C. people how they were supposed to make buildings. Others believe that humans from the future brought their advanced knowledge of architecture to the B.C. world, while all the authentic scripts of the Egyptians, Romans and other great ancient civilizations say that the knowledge came from the divine. It is true that most all architectural masterpieces born from era to era were inspired by the relationship between humans and spiritual entities, the environment and each other.

Egyptian architecture for example, shows the balance between the gods and human life on earth inspired in every detail of ancient Egyptian architecture. The elegance of Oriental architecture was also developed from an understanding of the relationship between the gods and goddesses with humans on earth. The uniqueness of Muslim architecture, which shows the power of their faith, can be seen throughout the continents of Africa and southern Asia.

New since the 1900’s, known as the early modern era, the architectural focal point is merely to “function space” for people to live their lives day to day. This era of modernism is no longer stressing spiritualism.
The development of architectural design had born numerous streams within interior and exterior designs. Popular design palettes such as Renaissance, Baroque, and Art Nouveau have embarked on the design work of the artist.

The Asian Invasion
Recently, Asian architectural design is on the hot list in many parts of the world. Some experts say it is because it still holds on to the concept of the balanced relationship between men with spiritual entities. It makes total sense, as I believe we all know that spiritual junkies are growing vastly in recent years.
Balinese architectural design, which was previously known as part of Asian architectural design, has recently been named as an independent architectural design. If we look back several years ago, Bali, Oriental, Japan, and Thailand were unities under the name of the Asian Architectural Design Style. However, along with the development of each style, now almost all of them stand alone.

The History of Balinese Architectural Design
As well as with other architectural design styles, Bali also has its own story. At first, the “Bali Aga” tribe (Malay descendents that first set foot in Bali) developed the architectural design of most authentic Balinese buildings. The origin of the birth of the Bali Aga architecture was also suspected of coming from the Balinese awareness of spiritual entities. At that time, the architectural style of a Balinese house was very simple. In every house there was a place made to worship God, made of thatch with a low roof and no ventilation at all. 

The development of Balinese architectural design arose when the influence of Buddha came to Bali around the year 670. This influence was brought by Yi-Tsing from China, who introduced the Oriental architectural style to Bali.

The next phase of Balinese architectural design development took place during the Hindu Majapahit exodus to Bali. This was the reason why Balinese and Javanese architectural designs are so similar. If you pay attention to the details carved on the buildings in Java and Bali, you will see a significant similarity between them. In the year 1080, a master plan for Balinese architectural design known as Asta Kosala Kosali was compiled.

The Asta Kosala Kosali Philosophy 
Similar to Feng Shui, the Asta Kosala Kosali system is a set of architectural rules that had been designed by Bali’s experts at the time in achieving balance in life and “taksu” (highest charisma of the house). This system is the basis of man’s relationship with God, man with man, and man with nature. In Asta Kosala Kosali, the sense of direction has an important role. Every part of the house should be build based on its position in the compass:

- The area of ​​the mountains shows the north
- The sea shows the south
- The sunrise indicates east
- The sunset shows the west
Based on Asta Kosala Kosali, a house is divided into three major areas:                
- Utama (Main area): The sacred area, which is the area of the house considered as the appropriate place for the implementation of worshiping God. This area is usually located in the northeast part of the house.
- Madya (Social area): The neutral area, which is the part of the house that is intended for the homeowners to live their household life and socialize with people. 
- Nista (Back area). The part of the house that is designated for disposal and recycling.

Here are some do’s and don’ts on Asta Kosala Kosali:
- The best house is a house that faces towards the east or south.
- In the Asta Kosala, a house is similar to a human being with the roof as the head, while the foundation is part of the foot. To be able to stand up, the robustness of the foundation must be considered by the selection of high quality materials.
- Have a house with a large yard consisting of front and back yards.
- Founded on ground that if dug as deep as 30 centimeter will have a spicy aroma.
- Have a parapet surrounding the house, separating it from the neighbors.

- Two gates with the same width and height. It is believed to give bad luck to the homeowners.
- Homes that have a main gate and a backyard both facing a road.
- The use of recycled materials from buildings that have experienced a disaster is believed to bring bad luck.
- Build a house on solid black colored land.
- Build a house in the area of a former shrine.
- Build a house in a former cemetery area.
- Have a wall that coincides with the neighbor’s house.
Seeing all the do’s and don’ts listed above, the various types of townhouses that are becoming the trend in urban areas contradict the rules of Asta Kosala Kosali. To be able to meet all the requirements of Asta Kosala Kosali, a family should have a home with a minimum land size of ​​300 square meters. 

The 11 Elements of Asta Kosala Kosali
A house with separated buildings is one of the unique ideas of Asta Kosala Kosali. Normally there are at least eleven things that must be set up in a house, which are:

1. SANGGAH (Family temple)
The Sanggah is a shrine dedicated to spiritual needs. The Balinese believe that this is the place where they are able to praise the Lord and their ancestors. The Sanggah is located in the northeast area of the house

2.BALE DAJA (The North Building)
The Bale Daja is a building dedicated to the elderly. The unique part of this building is a carved peacock relief or Balinese ox placed on the door or the window. These reliefs represent honor, maturity and great wisdom.

3. BALE DANGIN (The East Building)
The Bale Dangin is an open-air building with a single wall on the backside. With a single or a twin bed, this building is used to for Manusa Yadnya, a ritual ceremony dedicated to humans and aimed at cleansing the soul. 

4. BALE DELOD (The South Building)
The Bale Delod is a building for guests who want to hang out or stay over night. Similar to the Bale Dangin, this is an open-air structure with a single wall on the south side. The Bale Delod has a big wooden bed in the center of it.

5. BALE DAUH (The West Building)
The Bale Dauh is a building dedicated to all of the family members, except the oldest. The Bale Dauh consists of several bedrooms and a terrace, so it is usually bigger than the others. Reliefs of plants can be found in many parts of this building to symbolize prosperity and the unity of the family.

6. JINENG (The Rice Barn)
 The Jineng is a rice barn. Even though the family may no longer be working as farmers, they still put rice inside of the lumbung, as this barn represents the wealth of the family.

7. PAON (The Kitchen)
The Paon’s literal meaning is the kitchen. The Paon consists of two parts, the first one is an open-air section with a wood fire oven, and the second part is a room where food and other cooking apparatus are kept.

8. PENUNGGUN KARANG (The Guardian Angel)
This is another holy building in the house that is believed to be the place of the guardian angel of the house. It is believed that the guardian angel will dismiss every single bit of negative energy from whoever tries to enter the house.

9. SUMUR (The Well)
The well is the source of water for the house and is also believed to be the place of Dewa Wisnu (The God of Living)

10. ANGKUL-ANGKUL (The Main Gate)
The Angkul-angkul is basically the main gate of the house. It is made of a pair of two red brick blocks in a row with a wooden door in between. Normally the Angkul-angkul is higher than the wall surrounding the house. On the right and left side of this gate there are guardian statues with scary facial expressions. Often they are a male and a female with both palms of hands in front of their chests. This pose is the welcoming gesture of Balinese people that is followed by saying Om Swastiastu (the welcome greeting).

11. ALING-ALING (The Divider)
Another unique part of Balinese architecture is the Aling-aling. As the Balinese people are very friendly in the sense that they always welcome guests, they prefer to never close the gate. To be able to keep their privacy, instead of having a fully closed gate the Balinese people build a small wall made of bricks between the Angkul-angkul (gate) and the house yard called the Aling-aling, so that someone outside will not be able to see the people inside.

Text and Photos by Bayu Rahanatha


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Posted by » Bali and Beyond Magazine

September 2014 EDITION
Contributor Yoppy Pieter journeys to an isolated village in East Java where...
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Yoppy Pieter
is a photographer and writer documenting social issues and travel. His interests led him to train in photography via the PannaFoto Institute, the Permata Photojournalist Grant and the Angkor Photo Workshop. www.yoppycture.com
Stephanie Brookes
is a freelance writer who lives in Bali. She explores Bali and beyond and writes about culture, travel hotspots and wildlife adventures. Her published work can be found on www.travelwriter.ws
David Metcalf
is an avid traveler and photographer who spends most of his time exploring the wonders of Indonesia. He is fascinated by indigenous cultures and runs photography tours in Bali and abroad. www.davidmetcalfphotography.com
Katie Truman
waved goodbye to her native England fifteen years ago and has been living in Southeast Asia as a freelance writer ever since. She contributes to numerous international publications on her two big loves, Vietnam and Indonesia.

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