What is a Banjar? Balinese government systems explained
What is Banjar?
Banjar means ‘neighborhood’.
The smallest form of local government in Bali is the Banjar. It is basically a local community group who acts as a village government system and village council. It is independent from the police and takes care about the cultural and religious values of the village community. Every village has its own Banjar and members are the married men of the community.
After marriage the membership of a Balinese man is mandatory in the Banjar. If he rejects it he can be called as riot in the village. Non-balinese and foreigners can not be members.
The leader (usually called “Kliang-Banjar”) of the Banjar is elected by the members and approved by the gods via a medium. He does not have any earnings as the leader although he can receive goods or some additional rice as gift.
They have meetings close to the village temple (pura desa) at a place called banjar pavilion (Bale Banjar). Members represent their families in the Banjar. This means that family members are also part of it just in a passive way. Men can raise their voice on behalf of their wives while women act as support. Usually a Banjar consists of 50-200 family leaders and they wear black and white sarongs.
There are two types of Banjar administration: Banjar Adat and Banjar Dinas. Banjar adat is responsible for cultural and religious cases, affairs related to Balinese law while banjar dinas is in charge of social and governmental aspects of the village life, administrative duties like certificates (birth, death, wedding). Every territory has the both of them and they work together unless the two roles are fulfilled by the same person.
All Banjars have their own Gamelan orchestra and dancing groups who perform at traditional festivals and ceremonies.
What are their responsibilities?
- It oversees the traditional Balinese village community, it is responsible for their problem free life within the community.
- It serves as town council
- One main responsibility of the Banjar is village administration and support all activities of the village: organising and coordination of village ceremonies like weddings, cremations, temple festivals and family celebrations. This includes determining dates, financial and equipment support, provides offerings, helps in ceremony preparations, security, coordinating traffic, blocking roads etc.
- Banjar makes decisions about important community issues
- It handles taxation and also community money: Banjar collects contributions from households for ceremonies and lends money for equipment needs
- Takes care about the maintenance and cleanliness of temples and village buildings
- Gives penalties and punishment for those who do not comply rules
- Coordinates and oversees land sales
- Work and responsibilities are shared among members
- Banjar makes the community strongly connected
What connection do I have with the Banjar?
The Banjar is the primary authority who you can report crimes if you witnessed any – robbery, theft or any offensive event and they may start to investigate. They have the right to inflict penalty.
In case you would like to organise a bigger event, party or wedding you have to ask permission from the Banjar. In addition to this you have to pay a Banjar fee which amount varies depending on location, type and size of the event and on your requirements.
The Banjar is responsible for events happening smoothly, organise traffic, security, and make sure if the theme is not offensive culturally or religiously, noise level does not bother neighbours and other local residents and they take care of the security of event participants.
After paying the fee and having a discussion with local Banjar about the details of the event, you receive their approval and full support.
When leasing a villa as an expat you can be asked by your local Banjar to give a monthly banjar fee and money donations as contribution for certain ceremonies, events, village development and security. Amount usually depends on the location.
During bigger ceremonies you can see members of ‘Pecalang’ coordinating the celebrating crowd and the traffic on the roads. Pecalang is a group of local security officers who work together with the police. They are part of the Banjar, responsible for safety and neighbourhood watch. Every village has its own Pecalang.
How can I get in touch with the Banjar?
The easiest way is to actively participate in the social life of the village community or ask your Balinese neighbours and friends. It is quite difficult to spot their physical representation except their monthly meetings or during village ceremonies.
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