Kulkul, a Sacred Means of Communication

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Illustration of kulkul tower
Illustration of kulkul tower

KULKUL or wooden split drum is a traditional means of communication in Bali. Virtually all traditional organizations have this means. It is commonly made from timber. Alternatively, it can also be made from a joint of bamboo, but it is only used for lighter function.

According to Janantaka palm-leaf manuscript, the best wood used to make this kulkul is jackfruit tree. It is considered as the king of timber. Selection process of this timber must comply with the auspicious day based on Balinese calendar. When the process of making this wooden log with elongated hole, it is inaugurated first before used. The ritual is intended to establish the function as a means of communication and have a taksu or divine vibration.

Some traditional organizations in Bali remaining to use the presence of kulkul are the subak (irrigation cooperative), customary village, gamelan troupe and some other smaller organizations.

In general, the function of kulkul is used to inform villagers for (a) a meeting, mutual assistance and other social activities; (b) occurrence of emergency like fire, theft, riots; and (c) information on villager’s death. The kulkul of this function is placed on a tower in order the sound can reach the whole village territory and installed in village hall or pavilion of particular traditional troupe.

Meanwhile, the kulkul used to accompany the ritual procession in temple along with gamelan music is set in the temple complex. For this purpose, the kulkul tower is commonly placed at the south-west corner of the temple complex.

As for the bamboo kulkul commonly having smaller size is functioned as musical instrument in tektekan dance and ngerupuk procession before the Nyepi or Day of Silence celebration. Besides, bamboo kulkul is also used in traditional cockfight as the marker of time measurement in each round of fight.


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