We all know that there is only one Bali – this tiny island is an inconceivable standout among Indonesia’s archipelago of 18,000 and the epic rites and rituals of Balinese Hindu’s are mind bending. Ondy Sweeting explores the religiously eccentric side
Not a single day passes without more than three million deeply religious people offering the delightful Canang Sari – the beautiful ubiquitous little leaf baskets filled with flowers, rice, sweets and sometimes even a cigarette. It’s hardly surprising that the etymology is from ‘beautiful purpose’. What a way to start the day.
So lured by beauty are the Balinese that these baskets of gratitude appear everywhere from temples to family shrines; doorways to rivers. Creating them is an art form with ancient etiquette attached and they can take hours to make. Specific Gods require different ingredients. Offerings to high spirits on a temple will get the good stuff including money; fruit and red flowers while lower spirits on the ground get the fags. All will have incense that whips up the essence of these sacrificial goodies to gods and spirits with the first puff of smoke called Dupa. Balinese must wear a cloth belt around the waist to separate their base body from their head. The result is gorgeous and a daily wonder to watch. Locals aren’t shy about being watched. Happy Gods = happy household.
Naturally no month passes without the full spiritual acknowledgement of the full moon. Known as Purnama – the time of the full moon is the time for a huge social and spiritual celebration as Gods descend to Earth to give their blessings. It’s also a good time to start new things like planting rice. Who wants to miss out on that? Throughout the island hundreds of ceremonies are held at temples where the devout perform serious rituals using holy water; grains of rice and flower petals. Guests are welcome so enjoy such a display and get to know these awesome Gods that you will not find anywhere else but Bali.
Called Melukat-Mebayuh this is a profoundly personal ceremony found nowhere but Bali. It aims to completely reset an individual’s energies to their most pure birth state. It cleanses and clears and reconnects the person with their original energies that were delivered at birth. All the detritus of confusing and negative energies are banished and replaced with complete purity on a very deep level. It may take the high priest days to prepare given they have to consult the Lontars – the ancient and sacred calendar – to determine the exact day and hour that the birth energies of the person are present on the island. This rite takes almost a full day with results that last long into the future of tropical bliss.
While this is a smaller Melukat ceremony; it is also a powerful purification of holy sacrifice dedicated to the human being and can only be performed by a high priest. While a cleansing ritual; it prevents bad luck; illness and sin from this life and previous lives. While there are different Melukat rites for different situations – like removing soul stains from a baby or cleansing a groom and bride before their wedding – all include the use of holy water. One major water temple is Pure Tirta Empul; which has shrines to Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, Mount Batur and Indra. A long pool of stone has 12 fountains where worshippers pray after making offerings. This rite can also be performed under any natural water source including waterfalls, spring fed pools, the confluence of two rivers or the ocean. (Andrea Dixon)