Dress for the temple


The Balinese temple dress must be worn to attend a Balinese ceremony. It is the finest traditional dress, woven batik called Kamben.


Be careful, sarongs are only worn for everyday use, not for temples.


Women wear an upper garment called an Anteng or a larger Selendang, which is thrown like beautiful shawl over one shoulder during a temple ceremony. On very important occasions, like a wedding or tooth-filing, women wear a black corset and over it a wonderful coloured sash, known as a Sabuk, very often adorned with gold leaf or bronze paint to make the dress special. Slightly less formal is the colourful lacy blouse called Kebaya, which is originally Javanese.


Until the 1930s, Balinese women went to the temple with their upper bodies naked, but the Dutch persuaded them to cover up.


Men wear a piece of cloth called a Saput over the Kamben, which is bright yellow or white. Both are tied to the belt, Sabuk. On the head, they wear an Udeng. The front wing from headwear symbolises Shiva, when part wrapped around the head Brahma. The formal headwear for the ceremony is like a half-moon or sun.


The relationship between the formal dress and chakras


Chakras are energy centres in our bodies. Certain emotions and desires are associated with each one. The purpose of the temple dress is to control some of their desires and to focus attention to a higher purpose.


Six chakras of the body controlled by a Balinese formal dress:

  • The third eye (ajna), located in the pineal plexus, is connected to pure energy and enlightenment. The purpose of a man’s headwear Udeng is to tie and focus his consciousness to the point of utter purity and distinguish it from all other personal desires holding them down. Many women wear a white headband for a similar purpose.
  • The throat (vishuddha), located in the crotid plexus, connected to the ether, is associated with knowledge, wisdom and understanding. This area remains open.
  • The heart (anahata), located in the cardiac plexus, connected to the air, is associated with sharing, love, devotion, selfless service and compassion. It’s covered by a shirt or
  • The navel (manipura), located in the solar plexus, connected to fire, is associated with immortality, longevity, power, authority and wealth. These desires are harnessed by the Selendang
  • The genitals (svadhisthana), located in the hypogastric plexus, connected to water are associated with family, sexual urges and fantasy. These instincts are harnessed by the Saput and Sabuk.
  • The perineum (mulhadhara), located in the pelvis plexus, connected to Earth, is associated with being grounded, security, basic biological needs and shelter. These instincts are harnessed by the Kamben.


History of clothing


As with nearly everything in Bali, clothing has a divine origin too.

According to ancient manuscripts, Brahma created first the world and settled it with people. But they were naked at first. Kala The destroyer ate them. This distressed the preserver god Vishnu and he sent gods and goddesses to Earth to civilize people.

Ratih, Moon goddess, taught humans how to weave clothes from plants.

At first, they used grass to cover themselves, later loincloths made from tree bark.


The Purnama Bali texts mention spun and woven dress from the leaves of the bayu plant.