The Melasti and Bhuta Yajna Rituals for Isakawarsa (Bali New Year)
It turns out we arrived in Bali just at the right time. Not only are places free of loud noisy tourists, so we are the only ones making lots of noise, but we caught the celebrations around Nyepi, or the day of Silence that marks the Bali New Year.
We missed the proper family celebrations by leaving the mountains behind, and those promised to be quite good with a roasting pig and dancing and…musky sleepless nights. But choosing sleep was not that bad, cause in Lovina we managed to see the sea ritual – Melasti – which was held in the temple just down the beach from us.
The walk there took us through the fisherman’s houses and the very messy coast, consisting of black sand and everything else you may think of.
Like chickens for example. There are a few little piglets right next to our homestay, which will be diner in another few months by the sounds of it, but for now they roam freely the beaches around them.
As we were getting closer to the temple, we could see a lot of people gathered, lots of colors and an overwhelming sense of purpose in this big crowd of people.
Kids collecting the offerings that get washed back on shore by the waves.
Everyone was facing the sea, unless they were tending to their shrines/box. Each family has one they take care of and prepare and each family member prays to their own shrine, and there was a long, long line of them along the coast.
A boat takes the offerings from the people – chicken, flowers, food, everything – to the sea, where they deliver the gifts. Then they wait and pray, hence why everyone was facing the water and waiting. Then they get sacred water and is brought back to the people by the holy man, the one in white.
The man standing up on the boat is the owner of the place we are staying.
We were mostly trying not to be in the way, cause its hard to know exactly how much we can and cannot do when everyone around you is so busy doing something obviously important to them.
We did have a quick look around behind the crowds. Here the voice of the man that was chanting was quite loud, but so were the colors of the decorations and smells of the incenses that were burning everywhere.
The sacred water was being passed around and sprinkled over the shrines and people turned towards them now, busy continuing with their purification ceremony.
I have read that in some areas the people end up the process by washing in the sea, but we decided to leave them in peace.
Like any celebrations worth having, these ones extend over a few days and we went to see the chasing of the evil spirits the next day, which proved to be a very very special treat.
The anticipation could be felt from a far, people flocking around, kids running happily, balloons, trolleys offering sweets of some kind I have never seen – like plastic bags full of colorful liquid which was obviously enjoyed by the little kids around.
Every village, area and it looked like schools would make an Ogoh-Ogoh – statues of demons mostly which are supposed to represent the evil spirits and impurity of human beings – now those wonderfully crafted things are standing on platforms made out of bamboo, ready to be carried around town.
And then the parade started.
The kids were troopers, all of them, carrying their Ogoh-Ogoh proudly…for hours. Cause this first go is not the end. First they have to make the long walk to the temple, where they make an offering. Then they come back the same way. And later is the last party of the ritual.
The drums, the excitement, the buzz could be felt in the air. We absolutely loved this part. The Dod, sitting comfortably on my back kept on calling “More! More monsters!”….and after the one is passed..”More! More monsters!”.
And they kept on coming…
After that part was over and all the procession was at the temple, we decided to take a break and walk back to our place for a cool down, after a person informed us of the happenings of course. Good we did that, because it was a few hours until it became time for the next part.
The offerings in Bali are everywhere. Some small, some more elaborate, some on fancy carved up shrines, other on bamboo sticks, and some just placed on the floor, usually the front door or entry to somewhere.
This day was no different and as usual I enjoyed their presence.
In between the greenery we found the best soccer pitch ever. A small hidden playground where the kids enjoyed a kick or two without a coach, without a grown up to instruct them or tell them what they are not doing right.
And yet, they manage somehow ;)
After a bit of a break and a cold beer, I am sure we got a beer, it would have been the smart thing to do, we went outside to catch the next part – the walk to the cemetery, or the Ngrupuk ritual.
People kept on coming, from every which way, always on motorbikes.
And chatted with some people, who were waiting as well.
Then the night came and the action seemed to pick up, the policeman was waving his lighted baton, serious and meaning business. I wondered why was it so important to warn everyone that the parade is coming, and then I found out.
…when those Ogoh-Ogoh started flying out of the gate into the street, spinning around, as is the tradition, being shaken by the sweaty now people carrying them. It was intense, and oh, so much fun.
Being carried to their fire death, the statues were not as precious anymore and the violent shaking was meant to dislodge them from their pedestals and when they would fall, kicking would commence. I especially loved it when the little kids did that.
And then the energy rose even more, and the sounds were louder and we found out why – the champion Ogoh-Ogoh was making an appearance. Cause all this work into making the statues can be rewarded, if you make the best one that is. So now we were going to see the one that made it, the one that won.
No word were necessary.
The celebratory grins of success were on all the face of the team that won.
And their music was loud.
The buzz, people, the buzz!
And just as fast as the streets filled with people, they emptied after the parade was over.
Motorcycles were loaded, scooters zoomed about and only the mess from broken statues, crafted with care not long ago were left about.
We didnt go to the cemetery, as the kids were getting tired and hungry, but even this was perfect. We all loved it and wanted more.
I doubt I managed to really show you what this all was about, but if you got even a glimpse, it will be something. So if you ever make it down here, make sure its around the Nyepi, well worth it.