The presence of sacred forest is a demonstration of the harmonious coexistence of humans and nature. In Bali, sanctuaries such as the Monkey Forest are usually in sacred village areas, often surrounded by temples. These cultural sanctuaries are not only an important part of Balinese heritage, but also an important part of everyday live. Temple festivals are regularly held for the villagers and the gods in such areas.
A Balinese temple is more than just a collection of pagodas and pavilions. The area enclosed by temple walls and the forest area surrounding it is sacred. These temples and the forest are essential for renewing contact with the spiritual world. The activities associated with these areas are essential in maintaining harmony between humans, nature and the cosmos. Not only are ancestral spirits and gods given offerings and prayers, but also the spirits of trees and statues in the Monkey Forest are given offerings and prayers by the Pemangku and local villagers
Some of these trees are considered holy and are used in various Balinese spiritual practices. Examples include the Majegan, which is used exclusively for the building of shrines; or the Berigin, whose leaves are used in cremation ceremonies.
Of special significance is the Pule Bandak, a tree that embodies the spirit of the forest, and is used in the making of powerful masks. These masks are only used inside the temple, and the trees are not killed to make them. An auspicious day is chosen and the Priest asks permission of the tree spirit to cut a small piece of its wood. The spirit thus remains embodied in the mask.
The monkeys within the Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal are commonly called long-tailed macaques. Their scientific name is Macaca fascicuiaris. Macaques are found throughout Southeast Asia and many species of macaques live successfully in areas that are heavily utilized by humans. On Bali, there are Balinese long-tailed macaque troops (populations) that live in areas where they have little to no contact with humans and troops that come into contact with humans on a regular basis. However, despite the fact that many species of macaques thrive in areas that are heavily utilized by humans, there is evidence that the viability of Balinese long-tailed macaques (the ability of macaques to continue to thrive) may be dependent upon the conservation of Bali’s forested areas.
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