Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why Monkeys are Bad, Except Hanuman

Monkeys. To the uninitiated, a monkey may be a cute creature, or perhaps a funny pet. It is a fuzzy animal that possesses some human-like qualities, making them relatable or endearing. In movies, we're made to think monkeys are comedians, like King Louis from "The Jungle Book" or that annoying monkey from "Pirates of the Caribbean". Or, monkeys are portrayed as mis-understood, gentle giants, like in "Gorillas in the Mist" or the recent "Planet of the Apes". We're even made to feel bad for King Kong. After all, wasn't he just a misguided soul, fighting to protect the love of his life? Don't believe any of this media propaganda. Monkeys are bad.

The jungles in Bali are crawling with long-tail macaques. These furry creatures are super smart and super fast. They will steal the sunglasses off your face and eat them before you can say "holy monkey, Batman!".

We went for a stroll through the Monkey Forest near Ubud. We weren't there to see the monkeys, but to see the colorful monkey temple. On our way to the temple, one macaque noticed a brightly colored parcel peeking out of our friend's bag. He snuck up behind our friend, grabbed the red package, and ran just out of reach in order to investigate his spoils. The joke was on the monkey this time, as he only got a mouthful of wet wipes.

Monkeys here are allowed to roam freely, terrorizing tourists as they peruse the stone carvings near the forest temple.

For Craig, a walk through Monkey Forest might as well have been a ride in a haunted house. He knows that monkeys aren't exactly friendly, so walking through a forest that is a safe haven to these furry beasts that try to sneak up on you and steal your things can be quite frightening.

But it wasn't all bad. Craig liked to visit a statue representing his old friend, the Naga. It's not the seven-headed version like we saw at Angkor Wat, but it is still familiar. Nagas don't try to steal your stuff, either.

Near the center of the forest is an old banyan tree. This is a very sacred tree in Balinese culture. Each temple has a banyan tree located somewhere on the grounds. Even the monkeys respected it, and didn't try to climb it (at least while we were there).

We've seen lots of different types of guardian statues in our tours of Southeast Asia. Nagas, dragons, lions, and tigers have all made appearances as sentinels warding off demons. This is the first pig we've seen, so we had to get a picture!

Here we are in front of the holy sanctuary of the temple. The gates represent the good and evil side that each person has. By passing through them you leave your evil self behind and only bring with you your good self.

Here's a closer look at the main sanctuary. This is where offerings of fruit, flowers, and incense are left for the deities that make their home inside the temple.

The temple gates are adorned with fierce looking guardian monkeys sheltered by Balinese style umbrellas. As with other statues, they are wearing a traditional black and white sarong.

You may be wondering to yourself why the Balinese would build a temple that seems to be made in honor of theiving little monkeys. Well, there is one good monkey - Hanuman. Hanuman is the king of the monkeys. He's like superman. He helped Rama rescue Sita from the evil Ravannah!

Nothing scares Hanuman, not even a ring of fire that Ravannah and his henchmen used to try and contain the white monkey king!

In fact, Hanuman can use the enemy's ring of fire against him! Take that, Ravannah!

Hanuman is so cool, that Craig clammors to get his picture taken with him. That's Hanuman on the right. Ravannah is on the left, standing next to Sita's handmaid. Craig is in front with Hanuman's monkey army.

Craig had to get his picture taken standing right next to Hanuman. Craig is definitely not afraid of Hanuman.

The story of Rama and Sita is not unique to Bali. It is a key religious story for all Hindus and many Bhuddists as well. In Bali, this story is presented through dance and the "cek cek" male chorus. The male chorus is meant to sound like an army of monkeys retelling the story of how Hanuman helped Rama save Sita from Ravannah. Click on the arrow below to hear a sample of the monkey chatter.

So, the next time you see a monkey in the wild, you've been warned! Stay away, or they'll steal your stuff!. All monkeys are bad! Except Hanuamn, who is really cool!!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post! I love how Craigy looks scared to death in half of the pictures :) (haha! Is it bad that I like that? He is just too cute!!!) I guess I've been warned ... I'll look out for monkeys wherever I go.