Saturday, March 5, 2011

Balinese New Year, part I Melasti ceremony

Balinese New Year is called Nyepi and is celebrated every March or April according to the Balinese Saka calendar. It includes several rituals and ends with Nyepi day, a day of silence, fasting and meditation. On Nyepi Day total silence prevails. The airport and harbors shut down, shops close, traffic is forbidden and nobody leaves their compound. It is forbidden to turn on electricity, cook or light fires. Balinese radio and television stop. The Balinese people fast for 24 hours. There are 4 basic restrictions: no fire, no working, no travelling, and no leisure activities. More about Nyepi and how we experienced it in our next blog post.

Melasti ceremony
The Melasti ceremony is performed 3-4 days before Nyepi. Every village in Bali will go to closest temple at preferably the ocean or otherwise a lake. Here they will pay respect to the gods of land and sea by sprinkling water over status (sacred objects) from each family and village temple.

We were invited to join this ceremony with Janur (a colleague of Rino) in her village close to Tabanan. During this ceremony everybody is supposed to wear a white shirt (for men)/kebaya (for women), so we also dressed up as we were supposed to. The ceremony included a 1 hour walk to the beach (Tanah Lot Temple) were all the status were blessed. Several villages joined this parade and in total it included up to 2000 people. We joined the parade to the beach. After taking some pictures Janur already asked us to walk back to her village temple to wait for all the status to come back. After the blessing at the beach the gods are present and will take place inside the bodies of several people she told us. The statues and people have to get back to the village temple as quick as possible. They actually run all the way back!

While waiting for the status to come back a group of young girls danced Legong to welcome the status. Priests were sitting on the street at the entrance of the village temple praying and we were holding our breaths while waiting for what to come. When the status came it all went very fast. Before they entered the temple they were hold up for another offering done by the priests at the entrance. The gods also need food and therefore a small pig was offered and killed. After the final offer it all went very quickly, everybody hurried inside the temple with the status, barongs and the people taken by the gods. Especially the people that were taken over by the gods really made an impression on us. We could see different people suddenly change in appearance and behavior, in different ways. Some looked very peaceful and happy while dancing like in a trance and others had big scary eyes and strange chaotic behavior. All these people were closely watched and guided by others. Janur could tell us that this was because their mind was not in control over their bodies. After receiving holy water this people will become themselves and back to normal again.

It was an impressive, beautiful and sometimes a bit scary experience for us. Hopefully our explanation and the movie and pictures below can give you an idea of what we have experienced.

This video gives an impression of the ceremony when the statues came back and some people that were taken by the gods. (sorry for the quality, we have no edit experience ;-) )

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