Taman Sari Temple and Sandals
Generations of Sandal Keepers
Taman Sari temple is one of the ancient temples in Buleleng. It is located in Kampung Baru village, right on the sea shore. In every occasion of ceremonies and holy days like Galungan, Kuningan, Pagerwesi, Purnama (Full moon), and Tilem (New Moon), the temple is crowded with praying people from all of the villages. Different from other temples in Bali, the praying people in this temple are not allowed to wear their sandals or shoes into the temple. They have to take it off and leave it outside the temple. This has been a custom since the temple was built. It is done because the temple’s inner yard consists of tiles and not grass or soil like other temples. So to keep it clean, people have to take off their shoes and sandals before entering the temple.
There are some kids in the temple whose job is to keep the sandals and shoes of the prayers. They keep the prayers’ sandals and shoes during their praying activity. The kids never ask a fixed price for their service. Most of them are students at elementary school about 7 to 10 years old.
I went to Taman Sari temple on the last Tilem. When arrived at middle yard of the temple, a little girl approached me and offered her service to keep my sandals. I was curious at that time and asked her about her “profession” as a sandal keeper. She told me that her name was Kadek and she had been keeping the prayers’ sandals since she was 6 years old. She said that she was in the second grade of elementary school. When I asked her about her parents’ job she said that her father was a fisherman and her mother was unemployed. She lived near the temple. Along with other friends of hers, she keeps the prayers’ sandals or shoes. She will get more money in the Hindu holy days like Galungan and Kuningan because there will be more people come to the temple.
However, not all of the praying people are willing to give her money for her service. People sometimes refuse to take her service and the worst is when people agree to take her service but don’t want to pay for it. Kadek said that it was OK because she does the keeping profession only to have fun with her friends. “Playing in the temple’s yard with my friends is more fascinating than the money” Kadek said. “Here, we can play safely while keeping the sandals rather than playing on the roads” she continued.
For her service, she never asked a fixed charge, she will accept the money from the people no matter how much that is. Usually, she is given Rp. 500 to Rp. 1,000 but if she is lucky and keeps sandals of wealthy people, she will get about Rp. 5,000. I asked her what she does with all of the money and Kadek shyly answered that she saves her money to buy shoes, bag, book, or other school equipment. In the middle of our conversation, one of her friends came and told her that the people whose sandals being kept by her refused to give her money and then Kadek comforted her. Feeling disappointed, her friend left the temple. Kadek said that sometimes the praying people refuse to pay for the service but although she feels disappointed of the refusal, she couldn’t force or insist the praying people to give her money. She thinks that all of the money given to her for the service is a part of charity by the praying people so there is no enforcing for that.
The profession of sandals keepers in Taman Sari temple has been conducted by children living around the temple since years and there is a regeneration system of the profession. There is also a family in which the mother was used to be sandals keeper and now, her children takes her position and it, I believe, will be inherited by the next generations.