Get to Know Usada Bali

The word Usada comes from the word ausadhi (Sanskrit) which means plants that contain medicinal properties. Usada medical knowledge that came from India was brought by Hindu traders and clergy. Then, after arriving in Bali, it was mixed with the original Balinese therapy system and written on palm leaves. Lontar (from Javanese : ron tal , “tal leaf”) is the leaf of siwalan or tal (Borassus flabellifer or palmyra) which is dried and used as a material for manuscripts and crafts. At that time, palm leaves were used as material for manuscripts, after the Balinese script became known. These Balinese letters were taught by masters who came from Java, because these Balinese letters are very similar to Javanese letters. Based on this, it is suspected that the writing of Usada on palm leaves was only done after becoming familiar with Balinese letters, at the earliest after the introduction of the Caka year. Because at the end of every writing on a palm leaf, the year Caka is always added. So, it was only after 78 AD that Usada, which may have been known before, was written on palm leaves using Balinese letters which were a modification of Javanese letters (Nala, 1992).

In the X century during the reign of King Udayana (929-943), where King Dharma Udayana married Princess Mahendradatta from East Java, the close relationship between Bali and Java began with this history. After this marriage, the Old Javanese language began to be introduced to Balinese society as the language used in wedding manuscripts and other forms of literature. Meanwhile, Old Balinese is still used as a language of daily conversation. Since then, various sciences, including medicine, began to be written in Old Javanese and some were translated into Old Balinese and written on palm leaves (Nala, 1997). Then in the XI century, a master from East Java came to Bali, named Mpu Kuturan who spread the understanding of Hinduism, created new concepts and implemented the establishment of sanggah (merajan) as well as the Kawitan Temple and Kahyangan Tiga Temple. Mpu Kuturan also wrote down the most famous medication which is called Usada Taru Pramana lontar, a therapy with plants. The health problem and its treatment developed in Bali through palm leaves, which is estimated to have occurred in the 11th century (Nala, 1997). However, the Balinese people were familiar with the science of medicine long before lontar existed.

At that time, various kinds of lontar Usada began to emerge, such as Usada Sari, Budha Kecapi, Kalima Usada, Taru Pramana, Dharma Usada which explains the general health in nature and several Usada which led to specific diseases, such as Usada Dalem (internal diseases), Netra (eyes), Sasah Bebai (bebainan / illness caused by black magic), Buduh (psychological / mental health issue), Tatenger Beling (diagnosing pregnancy), Upas (poison, venom) and many others (Nala, 1997). Apart from that, there are also those in the form of oral narratives on palm leaves, which contain the philosophy of health and illness, magical characters, images of symbols that are difficult for ordinary people to understand. These oral narratives include Tutur Siwa-Budha, Bhagawan Siwa Sampurna, Aji Sundari Gading, Sang Hyang Niskala Tyanta, Kanda Pat and many others (Nala, 1997).

Usada Bali itself is a derivative of Ayurveda through the Charaka Samhita and Susruta Samhita books. Ayurveda is part of Upaweda, while Upaweda is part of Veda Smerti. Ayurveda came to be known in Bali during the reign of King Udayana. If we look at the usada palm oil, both in the general and specific medication as well as the oral written, the Balinese Usada system is basically Empiriko Logis Magis Religius (a reasonable experience with magical and religious elements) (Sridana, 2022).

Currently, the general view about Usada is that knowledge of healing which is found in various Balinese palm leaves with medical literature. Even though science is very advanced, in fact to this day, the elements of magical medicine still persist, because the Balinese Usada system has an Empiriko Logical Magical Religious basis. The influence of modern medical science provides an illustration of the results of the reciprocal influence between modern knowledge, traditional healing methods and beliefs, which have been going on for thousands of years, the result of mixing knowledge of medicine in Bali with Hindu influences used by Balian Usada practitioners in Bali and this medical knowledge can be read in various pieces of lontar literature from Usada Bali.

Written by:

Made Ayu Aryani

(Jamu Queen, Holistic Healing Coach, Karma Reader)

English translation by: N M Yanik Nopia

Reference :

Nala, N. 1997. Usada Bali. Denpasar: Upada Sastra.Sridana, N. 2022. Buku Panduan Meracik Loloh dan Resep Usada: Tanaman yang Tumbuh di Seputar Desaku di Kabupaten Bangli-Bali. Denpasar: Herbal Usada Taru Pramana.

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