BALINESE HOLIDAYS, FESTIVALS, CEREMONIES AND CALENDAR

BALINESE HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS

Balinese life is full of festivals and parties. There are rituals for planting crops and building homes, ceremonies to summon gods from mountains, small prayer sessions, and elaborate cremations with fires only a few feet from the road. There are parties for weddings, pregnancies, cremations, temple purifications, teeth filing and other rites of passage. This is in addition to the festivals on the Balinese calendar. Offering are made during the new moon, full moon, 15th day. And other auspicious days when evil spirits are especially active.

Each temple congregation holds periodic rituals to placate spirits to ensure harmony and bring about peace and prosperity. At a 24-hour temple consecration ceremony, women arrive with fruit, flowers and colored fruit cakes piled on their head. The Brahmin priest, sitting cross legged on the alter, chants mantras and twirls frangipani flowers between his middle fingers in the middle of clouds of sandalwood incense. "Our prayers and incense were like a ladder inviting the spirits to descend to their former home on earth," one Brahmin priest told the New York Times, "Then, the music and the women's sacred prayers welcomed the visiting deities."

Offerings are an important part of Balinese festivals. They are made to ancestors, spirits connected to places and other supernaturals. They include flowers, betel leaves, bits of lime, slivers of areca nuts, and colored rice symbolizing the Hindu trinity (red for Brahma, white for Siva and black for Vishnu). Offerings made of fruit, flowers, incense and multi-colored rice paste all bound together around a bamboo frame can weigh up to 240 pounds and tower eight feet. The rice paste is fashioned into designs of gods, humans and animals. Structures up to five meters high are made for annual festivals, and ones twice as big for once-every-hundred-year festivals. The eight foots take a dozen people about three days to build. Dogs often snatch the offering. Bali’s customs are sometimes threatened by the economic downturn as people don’t have enough money for offerings and ceremonies.

There are over 60 religious holidays a year. The basic tenet of Balinese religion is the belief that the island is owned by the supreme god Sanghyang Widhi, and has been handed down to the people in sacred trust. Thus the Balinese seem to devote most of their waking hours to an endless series of physically and financially exhausting offerings, exorcisms, purifications, processions, and temple ceremonies. Festivals are dedicated to woodcarving, transport vehicles, the birth of a goddess, and percussion instruments; there are temple festivals, fasting and retreat rituals, parades to the sea, full moon ceremonies, celebrations of wealth and learning. They go on and on. [Source: Indonesia-fascination.blogspot.jp]

Balinese Calendar

The Balinese use three calendars: the western one based on the sun, the 210-day Pawukon or uku calendar, and the Sasih, the saka, or Hindu calendar, which is divided into 12 lunar months of 29 to 30 days; The cycles of life on Bali are governed by the two non-Western calendars.

The Balinese calendar — Saka-Wuku — is a combination of: 1) the Saka, the Hindu solar-lunar year of 12 moons; and 2) the Javanese-Balinese Wuku calendar of 210 days which is divided into weeks. The combination of these two calendars and the many names for the different weeks and days make the Balinese calendar a complicated puzzle to solve. Experts in the field consult special charts and tables to determine days for the various religious festivals and significant days.

The Balinese calendar is used to determine birthdays (oton), anniversaries of temples (odalan), and the many festivals and the days that are so important in the everyday life of the Balinese. It is also used by rural Balinese to determine good days for the planting of crops. The calendar is determined by the phases of the moon, the most important days being each full moon (purnama) and new moon (tilem).

Saka Calendar used in Bali is a Hindu calendar, which is divided into 12 lunar months of 29 to 30 days. This calendar determines when harvest festivals, some temple festivals and the Balinese New Year are celebrated. Every 30 months an additional month is added to keep the saka calendar in sync with the solar year. For the year 2012 New Year’s Day was on March 23rd. For 2013, it was on March 11th.

The uku, or ancient Javano-Balinese calendar year is made up of 30 seven day weeks which add up to a 210 day year. The uku calendar is also broken down into cycles of three, five and six cycles. The conjunction of certain cycles creates unlucky days, sort of like Friday the 13th. The only difference is that on Bali these days occur every two weeks or so. This calendar is also consulted to determine the best days for funerals and cremations and special rites. Not coincidently, 210 days is the length of time between rice plantings. [Source: "Man on Earth" by John Reader, Perennial Libraries, Harper and Row]

Bali's 210 day calendar revolves around the growing season of rice. Nature, time and the rhythm of Balinese life have traditionally flowed harmoniously through it. New strains of rice which can be harvested after several months have messed it up. The six month cycle is very important to Balinese. Every six months there are island-wide ceremonies. Each temples has an anniversary ritual very six months.

Pawukon (210-Day Balinese-Hindu Calendar)

The Balinese Pawukon is complicated calendar used in Bali and elsewhere in Indonesia. Though most associated with Bali, it is still used in Java for special purposes. According to blog the abysmal: “In essence, it is a 210-day market calendar, that combines market weeks of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 days. As 4, 8, and 9 don’t divide evenly into 210, there are special rules to make it all work. Also, the 1-day market “week” is irregular, and follows a special schedule. got all that? good. One 210 day cycle began on June 17, 2012 the next began on January 13, 2013. This calendar doesn’t align itself to other calendars, and as far as I’ve been able to gather, runs 210-days consecutively over and over, without a leap year or similar consideration. [Source: theabysmal.wordpress.com, July 7, 2012 ^+^]

The seven-day week is not the same as the seven-day week on the pawukon. Each day is given a different name with different significance. So it appears that there are two cycles of 7-days, one of which has two names. The 7-day week runs concurrently with a 5-day week (not the same as the one on the pawukon either), and the two form a 35-day cycle of days. The seven days are: Minggu – Sunday; Senin – Monday; Selasa – Tuesday; Rebo – Wednesday; Kemis – Thursday; Jemuah – Friday; Setu – Saturday. The five days are: 1) Kliwon, 2) Legi, 3) Paing, 4) Pon and 5) Wage. Each of these days has two names, here is only the informal name. ^+^

Weekday Significance: Each of the seven weekdays is associated with the motion of the moon toward the earth: 1) Sunday – standstill: 2) Monday – forward; 3) Tuesday – backward; 4) Wednesday – left; 5) Thursday – right; 6) Friday – up; 7) Saturday – down. Each of the five days of the other market week represent the positions of the moon: 1) Kliwon – stand-up; 3) Legi – retreat; 3) Paing – in front of; 4) Pon – sleep; 5) Wage – sit down. ^+^

The Pawukon is the market calendar par excellence. It combines concurrent market weeks of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 days. The Pawukon is 210 days. Observant readers will have noticed that 210 cannot be evenly divided by 4, 8 or 9. Those weeks are adjusted with extra days. 52 x 4 and 26 x 8 = 208, and 23 x 9 = 207. For the 4- and 8-day weeks, the 2 extra days are added at second last day of the week that would normally end on the 72nd day. For the 9-day week, the first day of the week is repeated three times at the start of the Pawukon. Apart from these exceptions, the 3-, 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-, 8-, and 9-day cycles repeat themselves throughout the calendar. The rest should be easy, right? 1, 2 and 10 all divide easily into 210. They do, but they do not repeat themselves the way other weeks do. ^+^

Pawukon Cycles

For timekeeping, days are numbered within the lunar month (wulan) as is common in other calendar systems. The date indicates the change in the moon, and symbolizes the life of a human in the world. This process of revolving life is known as cakra manggilingan or heru cakra. On the first day of the month, when the moon is small, it is compared to a newborn baby. The 14th day, called Purnama Sidhi (full moon), represents a married adult. The next day, called Purnama, occurs as the moon begins to wane. The 20th day, Panglong, symbolizes the point at which people begin to lose their memory. The 25th day, Sumurup, represents the point at which the adult requires care like when they were young. The 26th day, Manjing, represents the return of the human to his or her origin.[Source: Wikipedia +]

The solar year is divided into twelve periods (mangsa) of unequal length. Its origin lies in agriculture practice in Java. The names of the first ten months are simply the ordinal numbers from 1 to 10 in Javanese language, although the names of the 11th and 12th months are unclear. The cycle begins near the summer solstice, around the middle of the dry season in Java. +

In the 19th century, the solar month system or pranata mangsa was much better known among Javanese than the civil or religious year. The cycle is clearly of Javanese origin, since the specific application to their climate does not match other territories in the Indonesian archipelago, as well as the usage of Javanese names for the months. Although the cycle matches the weather pattern well, it is still clearly somewhat arbitrary, as can be seen in the lengths of the months. In astrology, the pranata mangsa is used to predict personality traits in a similar manner to sun signs in Western astrology. It is not widely used anymore for divination, but some practitioners use it as well as the other cycles in their divination. +

The cycle of months is considered metaphorically to represent the cycle of human life. The first nine months represent gestation before birth, while the tenth month represents the human in the world, the eleventh the end of his or her existence, and the twelfth the return to where he or she came from. The cycle thus goes from one spark or conception (rijal) to another, traversing through the void (suwung). +

Pawukon Solar and Lunar Months

The Solar months (Pranata mangsa) (Starting day, Name, Length of days, Description) are: 1) Jun 23, Mangsa Kaso, 41, The dry season; leaves are falling from the trees; the ground is withered and arid, bereft of water "like a jewel that has come free of its setting." 2) Aug 3, Mangsa Karo, 23, The dry season; parched earth lies in hard clumps; the mango and cotton trees begin to bloom. 3) Aug 26, Mangsa Katelu, 24, The dry season; spice roots are harvested; the gadung tree begins to bear fruit. 4) Sep 19, Mangsa Kapat, 25, Rain begins to fall, as "tears well up in the soul", marking the end of the dry season; birds are singing and busily constructing nests. The Labuh Season is at hand. 5) Oct 14, Mangsa Kalima, 27, The rainy season, sometimes with fierce winds and flooding; mangoes are ripe; snakes are driven from their nests; "a fountain of gold falls across the earth". 6) Nov 11, Mangsa Kanem, 43, The rainy season; lightning strikes and there are landslides; but it is also the season of many fruit. 7) Dec 23, Mangsa Kapitu, 43, The rainy season is at its peak; birds are hard pressed to find food, and in many areas there is severe flooding. 8) Feb 4/5, Mangsa Kawolu, 27, The rainy season; rice fields are growing and the cat is looking for his mate; grubs and larvae abound. 9) Mar 2, Mangsa Kasanga, 25, The rainy season; rice fields are turning yellow; "happy news is spreading"; water is stored within the earth, the wind blows in one direction, and many fruits are ripe. 10) Mar 27, Mangsa Kasadasa, 24, Rain yet falls, but is diminishing; the wind rustles and blows hard; the air is still chilly. The Mareng Season is at hand. 11) Apr 20, Mangsa Desta, 23, The dry season has begun; farmers are harvesting the rice fields; birds tend their young with affection, as if they were "jewels of the heart". 12) May 13, Mangsa Saddha, 41, The dry season; water begins to recede, "vanishing from its many places". [Source: Wikipedia +]

Each lunar year (tahun) is divided into a series of twelve wulan or lunar months. Each consisted of 29 or 30 days. This is adapted from the use of months in the Islamic calendar. The Javanese lunar months (Krama (formal), Ngoko (informal), Arabic names, Length of days): 1) Warana, Sura, Muharram, 30; 2) Wadana, Sapar, Safar ), 29; 3) Wijanga, Mulud, Rabi al-awwal, 30; 4) Wiyana, Bakda Mulud, Rabi al-thani, 29; 5) Widada, Jumadil Awal, Jumada al-awwal, 30; 6) Widarpa, Jumadil Akhir, Jumada al-thani, 29; 7) Wilarpa, Rejeb, Rajab ), 30; 8) Wahana, Ruwah, Sha'aban, 29; 9) Wanana, Pasa, Ramadhan, 30; 10) Wurana, Sawal, Shawwal, 29; 11) Wujana, Sela, Dhu al-Qi'dah, 30; 12) Wujala, Besar, Dhu al-Hijjah, 29 or 30. +

Pawukon Yearly Cycles

The Shalivahana era, which started in A.D. CE and continues to be used on Bali, was used in Hindu times on Java, and for well over a century after the appearance of Islam on Java. When Sultan Agung adopted the Islamic lunar calendar in A.D. 1633, he did not adopt the Anno Hegirae to designate those years, but instead continued the count of the Shalivahana era, which was 1555 at the time. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Eight tahun makes up a windu. A single windu lasts for 81 repetitions of the wetonan cycle, or 2,835 days (about 7 years 9 months in the Gregorian calendar). Note that the tahun are lunar years, and of shorter length than Gregorian years. The names of the years in the cycle of windu are as follows (in krama/ngoko): 1) Purwana/Alip (354 days); 2) Karyana/Ehé (354 days); 3) Anama/Jemawal (355 days); 4) Lalana/Jé (354 days); 5) Ngawanga/Dal (355 days); 6) Pawaka/Bé (354 days); 7) Wasana/Wawu (354 days); 8) Swasana/Jimakir (355 days).

The windu are then grouped into a cycle of four: 1) Windu Adi; 2) Windu Kunthara; 3) Windu Sengara; 4) Windu Sancaya. The cycles of wulan, tahun, and windu are derived from the Saka calendar. Windu' are no longer used much in horoscopy, but there is evidence that it was previously used by court officials to predict trends. The passing of a windu is often seen as a milestone and deserving a slametan ritual feast). +

Dino Mulyo (literally "noble days") are celebrated by worshipping Gusti, the creator of life and the universe. Practitioners of traditional Javanese spiritual teachings have preserved several noble days: 1) Satu Suro, the first of Sura, the New Year; 2) Hanggara Aish : Tuesday Kliwon; 3) Dino Purnomo: Jemuah Legi/Sukra Manis (Friday Legi). +

Festivals in Bali

There are many holidays marked on the Balinese calendar and since their calendar is only 210 days almost two Balinese years fit in our one. House warming parties, funerals and harvests are celebrated with festivals and processions. Individual villages have their own ceremonies, certain temples have certain rituals performed on certain days, so it is very rare that a day passes are there isn't some kind of festival somewhere on Bali. [Source: Donna Grosvenor, National Geographic, November 1969]

Galungan is the most important day of the Balinese year. It commemorates the world's creation by the Supreme Balinese God and the victory of good over evil. The day is marked by offerings and ceremonies. Kunigan is the second most important day on Bali's Hindu calendar. During this festival Balinese make offerings and wash themselves in the sacred waters at Tampaksiring Temple to purify themselves. Ciwaratri is a Hindu rite observed in Bali and West Lombok where devotees fast and don't sleep for twenty four hours

Celebrations may include music, dance, drama or shadow puppet performances. When they are performed in this context they have a sacred meaning and are often payed for by wealthy people. During celebrations Balinese wear headdresses and colorful head scarves tied around their head. During processions women carry trays of fruit and flowers on their head. Large ceremonies are presided over by Brahmin priests. Lower caste priests care for temples and perform local ceremonies.

John Reader wrote in “Man on Earth”: "Everyone of the 20,000 temples has a day of celebration each year, lasting three days or more at the important temples, and for every activity an offering must be made at the appropriate time of year. The arts must be honored, for instance, and offerings must be made to the musical instruments, dance costumes and the masks...There are days when implements must be reconsecrated, others when appeals are made for special cattle breeding, and when offering are made to fruit trees, palms and gardens. On Saraswati, a holy day commemorating the goddess of learning, no reading and writing are allowed, and all books must be offered for blessing...On Soma, the goddess of rice and fertility is honored and the milling or selling of rice is forbidden...The list of obligatory offerings is very long, and many of the events require elaborate preparations." [Source: "Man on Earth" by John Reader, Perennial Libraries, Harper and Row]

Bali’s Once-Every-Hundred-Year Festival

The biggest Balinese festival,Eka Dasa Rudra Eka Dasa Rudra ("Hundred Year Ceremony") takes place every 100 years or when bad times require it. It was last held between February and May 1979 and included 30 ceremonies. Before that it was held in 1963 right before Mount Agung, Bali's largest and holiest volcan, erupted killing 1,500 people. Foreigners usually aren't allowed to attend the ceremonies which attempts to restore the balance in the world between the forces of good and evil. One was attended President Suharto and included the sacrifice of 80 animals, including leopards and eagles which were thrown into the volcano's crater.

To prepare for the festival the Balinese construct elaborately detailed offerings out of colored cookie-dough that are mounted onto wooden frames. The holy dough is shaped into images of Balinese gods. Dozens of images and designs are attached to the offering frames which are cluttered yet harmonious and symmetrical. At Besakih, Bali's holiest temple, offerings are placed on top of 11 foot towers encircled by sacrifices. [Source: Donna Grosvenor, National Geographic, November 1969 ♤]

The "Beast's Mane," another kind of offering, is huge monster created from ginger and rice stalks with coconut and cassava horns and a tail made from bananas and coconuts. Once the beast is constructed it is carried by about 50 men to Besakih which sits at the base of Mt. Agung. Besikah is a huge temple complex made of dozens of shrines which honor the Balinese gods which number in the hundreds.♤

Another important ceremony is the three day procession to the sea in which images are carried 19 miles from Besikah to the black sand beach at Batu Klotok. Along the route, villagers gather and offerings are made. At the beach a buffalor calf with gold on its horns and silver bracelets around its legs is sacrificed by being thrown into the surf with a rock tied around its neck. ♤

Over 150,000 people carrying baskets packed with offerings show up for the climax of the festival, the Taur rites. The ceremony is presided over by 23 white-robbed priests wearing turbaned crowns. Special gambuh dances are performed, prayers are said and scores of animals-from anteaters to eagles-are sacrificed to appease to various demonic manifestations of Bali's supreme being, Rudra. The festival ends a few day later during a closing ceremony when a priest sprinkles holy water on dignitaries who have attended the event.♤

Bali Coming of Age Rituals

There are a number of life-cycle rituals to celebrate things like births and pregnancies. The first ceremony takes place before birth, at the third month of pregnancy, when a series of offerings are made at the home of the pregnant mother and the village river.

A big coming of age ritual for Balinese boys and girls is the tooth-filing ceremony, which is intended protect the initiates from "sadripu," the evil in human nature. Girls have the ritual performed when they are 12. On the day of the ceremony girls grease their hair down with beeswax and wear a crown of frangipani blossoms. They are then carried in a palequin in a procession that ends at the house of a Hindu priest, who performs the ritual.

To the sound of gamelan music and chants a priest first rubs a gold ring on the girls lips. He then files their teeth so that they are all even. The experience is supposedly nerve tingling but not painful. The teeth filings are placed in a coconut and buried. The Balinese believe that part of the soul lives in the teeth. They also believe that every individual must have their teeth filed before they die. Small teeth ensure entry into heaven . People with unfiled teeth may be mistaken as demons with huge fangs and prohibited from entering. [Source: "Bali by the Backroads" by Donna Grosvenor, November 1969]

Balinese Ceremonies and Offerings

In Bali, there is no single day without a ceremony. It is an obligation for human to promote balance relations among human, gods and nature. Those principles are materialized through a whole-heartily sacrifice, called Yadnya. Yadnya can be a very simple thing like giving a slice of one’s sausage to a wandering dog, or just cleaning up plastic rubbish in a temple area. Yadnya, or giving away, is the root of most ceremonies in Bali. [Source: Bali A Traveler’s Companion and Bali Tourism Information Book 2008]

There are five obligations, or Panca Yadnya. Dewa Yadnya aims at thanking to the God, Pitra Yadnya to respect the ancestors’ souls, Manusa Yadnya aims at cleaning human souls, Rsi Yadnya is held when someone want to be a priest and Bhuta Yadnya aims for thanking to nature and balancing their positive and negative powers. Those Yadnya are reflected through ceremonies, but Dewa Yadnya is reflected through ceremonies more than the others. Those hundreds of ceremonies regularly held anywhere on the island each is based on one of the Panca Yadnya. Different traditions from one village to another create more variations among places in Bali.

Mecaru is one of the most interesting ceremonies belonging to Bhuta Yadnya ritual. It aims at balancing the nature’s positive and negative energies. In Bali, the accepted concept is that there should be a balanced relationship among the negative and positive powers to maintain a harmonious world. Mecaru can be divided into some levels, and the higher one is called Tawur

There are three main instruments Balinese apply in a prayer, Bunga (flower), Dupa (incense), and Tirtha (holy water). Bunga, flower, is the symbol of respect to the almighty. There are some restrictions of flowers allowed to be used. (1) Such a flower should not grow up in grave yard. (2) It must be fresh. (3) Such a flower is not stayed by bugs or another small insects. (4) No Coconut flower or meduri may be used. A coconut is instead widely used in other ceremony because it has been filled with holy water. Dupa, incense, is the second main tool in Balinese ceremony which has function as witness of a ceremony. Besides, Dupa is symbol of Agni, the God of fire. Unlike Chinese, Balinese incense has smaller size and it is only in stick shape.

Tirtha is holy water which is sprinkled before and after ceremony. The name and function of this holy water is depending the ceremony itself, so that is why there are many name and function of Tirtha. There are two types of Tirtha which is always found in a ceremony. The first one is Tirtha Pelukatan. This holy water is applied as soul cleanser before one enter a temple or start ceremony. Tirta Pelukatan is sprinkled by the temple priest to all people before starting a ceremony. In some place in Bali when the temple ceremony held Tirtha Pelukatan is put inside big earthenware in front of entrance door and stained by the people themselves. The second Tirtha is called Tirtha Wangsuh Pada. This holy water is sprinkled after a ceremony is finished as a symbol of God blessing to human.

Nyepi, the Balinese New Year

Nyepi, the Balinese New Year, falls in late March on the Spring Equinox and is observed by a day of complete stillness. It marks the end of the old year and the beginning of the new yea and usually coincide with the end of the rainy season, The entire month leading up to Nyepi it is devoted to purification. One the day before the holiday purification sacrifices and offerings known as pratima are made at crossroads and in village squares. Priests chant mantras to exorcize the demons of the old year. In the evening people bang gongs and cymbals and parade through the streets with flaming torches. Gamelan music is played. Monster-shaped floats called ogah-ogah are paraded through the streets and people dressed in papier mache masks representing evil spirits accompany them. Everyone makes a loud racket until dawn, when the new year is ushered in with silence and the evil spirits have been banished and everyone is cleansed.

On New Year's Day, Nyepi, all is silent from 6:00am to 6:00am the following day. No fire may be lit, no transportation is taken and no work is done. The streets are empty. Everything closes down. Shops and restaurants are closed. The airport closes and even tourists are strongly encouraged to stay indoors. The use of heat or artificial light is discouraged, even when preparing a meal. Special police patrol to make sure all is quiet. It is hoped that all the demons and evil spirits that were aroused the night before will think Bali is empty and leave the island. People reflect on the previous year and make resolutions for the new year.

A festival called Pengrupukan celebrates the New Year and the arrival of spring in March or April. The festival’s aim is to roust out the devils that, having been swept out of Hades following the rainy season, have gone into hiding on the island. The Balinese make elaborate offerings to lure the devils out and then run through the streets, their bodies painted, bearing torches and making noise to drive them off the island. The following day is Nyepí, when the emphasis is on silence and introspection; businesses are closed and people stay at home. [Source: Indonesia-fascination.blogspot.jp]

Melasti

Melasti, a Dewa Yadnya ceremony, is a ritual which people purify themselves and their temples to keep evil spirits away. Melasti is usually held one day before Nyepi— the Balinese New Year. Balinese people do processions from their temple to the sea, carrying temple items to be cleansed in the waters and return them to the temple for a prayer. It prepares the entire community for the new year.

The annual Melasti rite, which falls around March 23, aims not only at purifying the souls of the Balinese people and their universe. It is a huge joyous occasion that nobody wants to miss. Around 75 villages, as well as hundreds of banjar in the capital of Denpasar take turns in performing the Melasti rituals until the last day before Nyepi. Melasti is also performed in 1,475 traditional villages around the island and along the island’s coastline. Residents of the mountainous Bangli regency area which has no coastlines perform their rituals either at Batur Lake or at the neighboring Gianyar regency’s Siyut Beach.

Aris Andrianto wrote in Tempo, “ The ritual is a process of purify themselves from sins and bad habits to welcome the Nyepi (Day of Silence). "The ceremony is aimed to wipe clean all of their bad characteristics," said the local Hindu youth figure, Minoto Dharmo. According to Mintono, the word Melasti came from the Indian word 'Male' which means 'dirt', and 'Letah' which means 'human'. The greed and arrogance which only bring disadvantages to people need to be purified during Melasti ceremony. The ritual consists of series of activities, starting with the Hindu priests (pandhita, pinandhita) who recite holy Hindu verses and followed by the Hindu people who are attending the ceremony. The ritual was then continued with drifting some offerings in the form of crops onto the sea. "The offering is our sacrifice for God and to show our gratefulness to the universe, and give back the gift of the universe which consists of three elements namely earth, water, and sun light," Mintono said. Prior to commencing the ritual, Hindu people cleaned up their village and temples together. [Source: Aris Andrianto, Tempo, March 30, 2014]

Melasti Beach Ceremony Procession

Agnes Winarti wrote in the Jakarta Post, “As the sun lazily rises from its deep sleep amid the unceasing drizzle, thousands of Balinese, young and old, mostly in traditional white attire, devoutly flow onto the Padang Galak Beach to perform their Melasti ritual. Waking up at 3 a.m. for Tuesday’s Melasti ritual on Padang Galak Beach, which is about 20 kilometers from their home in Jenah village, Ketut Subagio, 35, the father of Ary and Merta, said: “Whenever it’s time for morning rituals like today, my boys usually dash from their beds much quicker than when it’s time for school. No fretting at all.” [Source: Agnes Winarti, Jakarta Post, March 22, 2012 /*\]

“Even when not feeling well, I always make an effort to attend Melasti so that I can thank God for just being alive,” said Subagio, as he warmly greeted some friends and relatives just arrived from other villages. Only those who are deemed unsuitable, including the sick, menstruating women and anyone mourning the death of a family member within the previous 11 days, are not allowed to join the Hindu Balinese sacred ritual. /*\

“Padang Galak Beach welcomed continuous waves of Melasti celebrants on their motorcycles and in cars, as well as throngs of villagers being merrily “unloaded” from trucks and pickups. Accompanied by the sound of bleganjur gamelan instruments and the soothing fragrance of incense, the villagers brought colorful loads of offerings and their temples’ paraphernalia such as the barong and rangda effigies, various sacred figurines of deities (pratima), the traditional dance clothes and accessories to be purified by seawater. /*\

“Whether the day is rainy or scorching hot, we’ll always perform this tradition that has been passed down through the generations. We never feel forced to continue it,” said head of Cengkilung banjar (traditional neighborhood organization), Made Suarsana, adding that even in these modern days, Balinese youngsters remain devoted to the ngayah or communal traditional duties. Agung Ngurah, another resident of the Cengkilung village that lies about 10 kilometers from Padang Galak Beach, added: “We instill traditions into the lives of our youngsters by not only bringing the children to join such ritual, but also by making ogoh-ogoh effigies, for instance.” “Cengkilung village, which has some 460 residents, requires the villagers who are absent from a half-a-day of ngayah activities to pay a penalty of between Rp 500 and Rp 1,000. “But the penalty is not why we maintain our traditions. It’s because we cherish this whole togetherness,” said Made. /*\

“As all the paraphernalia and offerings were neatly arranged at the praying sites on the beach, temple priests began chanting, while villagers chose cozy spots to sit and chatted casually among fellow villagers, had some light breakfast, quenched their thirsts or simply took the time to gaze at the ocean waves. Once the priests completed their chants, villagers stopped chatting, prepared their small offerings, lit up the incense and made a brief communal prayer toward the ocean. During the prayer, a few of the Melasti participants reached a form of trance that drove them to perform particular dance movements or even stabbing themselves with a kriss (traditional dagger). /*\

“After floating their offerings, containing flower petals, leaves and small sums of money, into the ocean, participants were then sprinkled with holy water and thus completed the procession of the Melasti ritual that lasted about two hours. For Balinese Hindus, water plays a central role as a symbol of purification used in the religion’s various rituals. That explains why all Hindu Balinese seek the ocean or other large water reserves such as lakes or rivers to perform their Melasti rituals, the largest purification passage to welcome the arrival of the Saka New Year. As one village concluded their rituals, another village arrived to perform their own. /*\

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Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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