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3-Days of Ceremony, The Balinese New Year

April 1, 2017 0 Comments

Bali, the island of the Gods. We arrived at this beautiful place about 7 weeks ago. The moment you enter this island, you feel there's something 'in the air', it's a mystic feeling, an energy vibe, however you wanna name it. For sure it feels great to be here. This small Hindu Island in Indonesia is known by its friendly people, rich culture and interesting traditions. When you are in Bali, even if it's just for a few days, for sure you'll experience one of the many ceremonies. While walking on the street or riding you motorbike, the changes of getting stuck between a ceremony parade is big. Last week, we were even more lucky and joined the celebrations of the Balinese New Year. Three days full of ceremonies. Starting with Melasti, than an Ogo-Ogo parade and at last a full day of being in silence.

The Melasti Celebration

Melasti is a Hindu Balinese purification ceremony which is held several days prior to the Nyepi holy day. The Balinese have a different calendar based on the cycle of the moon, this makes that the holidays are always on a different date. This year Melasti was on the 26th of March. The Melasti celebration is a beautiful view all over Bali. All the Hindu people in Bali come trooping to the local temple and carry the symbols of the infinite and other Hindu religion to sea, where they will cleanse them. In Hindu belief, the source of water such as lake and sea water, are considered as the source of life. 


We got invited by the people of the local village to join this ceremony, which was off course very special to us. We tried to dress up as the way is was supposed to be. We both wear a white t-shirt and a sarong. Elmer was wearing the traditional udeng, which is a sort of head cloth. When we arrived at the ceremony place, the people were curiously looking at us. The kids were even secretly laughing, so I guess we failed a bit in dressing up according to the dress code. 

When everybody was ready, we could start the walk to the sea. It was a beautiful view, hundreds of people, all dressed up in white. The women were wearing offerings on their head and the men were playing music, the smell of incense was everywhere. A parade of women, men, kids, dogs and a few weird looking Bule (the Balinese nickname for foreigners).

While walking, more and more people joined the parade. When passing other temples, we stopped for a few minutes so those people could also join in the parade and continued the walk.

When we arrived at the beach everybody sat down. The elders sat in the front and the younger people in the back. The waves crash against the rocks. While red, yellow and white flags which signifying purity, peace, happiness and cleanliness blow in the breeze. The priests started their silence prayer to the God of Baruna (the HinduBalinese god of the sea) awaiting their renewal. 

Some of the women were singing in Sanskrit. A language only spoken by the people of the highest casts. We stayed a bit more on the side to watch this ceremony. 

After the oldest finished their praying. The rest of the people had a pray all together. It was a special moment to be in silence altogether, sitting on the beach. The oldest asked us to join the praying and we got blessed by the priest. He sprinkled some Holy water over our heads and we had to take some rice and stick it onto our foreheads. The ceremony ended when the priest threw a duck into the water, seen as an offering to the Gods. 

All the items from the temple where washed and purified in the sea and blessed for the upcoming year. We walked back to the village all together.

Ngrupuk, The Ogoh-Ogoh Parade

On the second day, it was time for Ngrupuk, also known as the Ogoh-Ogoh Parade. When we arrived at Bali, about 7 weeks ago, we already saw the preparations for this parade were getting started. The men of the villages come together at the temple and create huge monsters of paper-mache. Ogoh-ogoh normally has form of mythological beings, mostly demons monsters. The creation of Ogoh-ogoh represents spiritual aims inspired by Hindu Philosophy.

The main purpose of the making of Ogoh-ogoh is the purification of the natural environment of any spiritual pollutants emitted from the activities of living beings (especially humans). The forms of Ogoh-ogoh represent the Bhuta-Kala (Bhuta: eternal energy, Kala: eternal time), according to Hindu teachings. 

Each village usually build one Ogoh-ogoh mainly built by each village's Seka Truna Truni (Balinese village's youth organization), but often some smaller ogoh-ogoh also built by groups of children around the village. Some artist also usually build one.

An Ogoh-ogoh is normally standing on a pad built of timber planks and bamboos. The pad is designed to sustain the Ogoh-ogoh while it is being lifted and carried around the village or the town square. There are normally eight or more men carrying the Ogoh-ogoh on their shoulders. 

This procession is accompanied by orchestral music performed by the youth. It was great to see how they totally got into the music. A repeated rhythm made with Balinese instruments. The sound of the Balinese has as purpose to be in harmony with nature. 

During the procession, the Ogoh-ogoh is rotated counter-clockwise three times. This act is done at every T-junction and intersection of the village. Rotating the effigies during the cremational parade and the eve of Nyepi represents the contact of the bodies with the spirits. It is intended to bewilder the evil spirits so that they go away and cease harming human beings.

The Spirits

The parade went to the temple down the street. This is because they believe that during the Ogoh-Ogoh parade the spirit world comes down. We noticed this shift during the evening. When we came near the temple more and more people fell into the spirit. In the BalineseHindu culture, this isn't particularly a bad thing. People who have stress and are more open to it can receive a spirit in their body

The purpose of spirit possession is believed to be to cleanse people and places of evil influences and restore spiritual balance. When this happens they become and act like this spirit. There are all sorts of animal and human spirits in two forms, negative and positive. After people become their selves again, they feel relieved from this stress. During the night more and more people become possessed, so we called it a night. 

Nyepi, Silence Day

Nyepi Day in Bali is a New Year celebration. This is celebrated in silence following a ritual called the Catur Brata Penyepian meaning "the four Nyepi Prohibitions".  These include amati geni or ‘no fire’, amati lelungan or ‘no travel’, amati karya ‘no activity’, and amati lelanguan ‘no entertainment’. This is taken very seriously because every village has guards who check if the rules are obtained and even the Airport shuts down. This silence is practiced in the belief that on Silence Day, all the bad spirits fly over and off the Island. They do this because they are confused that nobody is on the streets and they see no lights burning. Also, this is a chance for Mother Nature to ‘reboot’ herself after 364 days of human pestering. Silence Day is used for inner reflection by the BalineseHindus. From 6 a.m. till 6 a.m. the next day the island was in total silence. This was for us the chance to watch the sunset together and see the stars. Our friend Tanner Smith who we met here in Bali climbed on his rooftop to make this amazing video. 


Nyepi 2017 Timelapse

For licensing and other inquiries please email Tanner at tannermsmith@gmail.com or visit tannerphoto.com


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