Bali’s spiritual energy is palpable to almost everyone who visits the island, and even if it isn’t at first, it tends to seep in and affect visitors who spend time here. The Balinese are highly connected to the spirit, it is part of their everyday life and huge numbers of ritual and rites keep it so. Even before the time of birth, when the first blessing occurs with the six month old fetus, to the first baby blessing ceremony of ten days, Balinese lives are filled with rites of passage ceremonies, house ceremonies and temple ceremonies in a never ending round of exchanges of spiritual energy.

Text & Photos by Ayu Sekar

Bali’s spiritual energy is palpable to almost everyone who visits the island, and even if it isn’t at first, it tends to seep in and affect visitors who spend time here. The Balinese are highly connected to the spirit, it is part of their everyday life and huge numbers of ritual and rites keep it so.

Even before the time of birth, when the first blessing occurs with the six month old fetus, to the first baby blessing ceremony of ten days,  Balinese lives are filled with rites of passage ceremonies, house ceremonies and temple ceremonies in a never ending round of exchanges of spiritual energy.

Their Hindu religion is also known as Agama Tirtha – or the religion of holy water, which is sprinkled everywhere, every day. Water can be collected from very holy springs in the vicinity of Gunung Agung, the holiest mountain and for lesser ceremonies, from any number of holy springs and even, historically, from alang-alang roofs washed with rain. Most water is blessed by a Permangku (lay Priest) or for special ceremonies, by a Perdanda or high priest.

This holy water is an intrinsic part of Balinese life. Balians (traditional healers) use it to heal the sick. Permankus and Perdandas use it to clean the spirits of the ill. Every rite of passage is liberally sprinkled with holy water and temple shrines are sprinkled every day. People who fall into trance are brought back to this reality with a liberal sprinkling and anyone about to undertake a long journey will be given holy water before they leave.

In addition to the holy water, are the ritual gifts and offerings to the deities to keep them appeased and away from harmful proximity. You will see them on the pavements, outside houses, outside shops, under important trees and crossroads. An average household could spend almost half of its income on offerings and creating them is an act of devotion.  When making the daily offerings, incense, holy water and prayer add to their effectiveness.

Rites and rituals are interpreted differently in each and every location. The stately rites of Ubud are different to the showier rites of Sukawati and different again to those held in remote areas, especially in Karangasem.

One of the important ceremonies is the melasti – a visually spectacular ceremony that is held for myriad reasons. The most important is the ritual cleansing and purification which occurs in every village in Bali before the New Year, heralded with Nyepi – the day of silence and introspection.  On the appointed day, almost all villagers, banjars and desa make their way to the sea. It involves intricate scheduling on the ritual beaches, to allow each group time for the ceremonial purposes.

From Kuta to Karengasem, from before dawn to late afternoon, specific beaches are filled with spectacular processions of Balinese folk clothed in white along with huge numbers of offerings and ritual objects and homes for deities, (and usually include the temple barongs) and sometimes dance performances  as well.

This endless round of ceremonies keeps the spirit of the people strong and is an intrinsic part of Balinese life. May it continue to survive and may we all prosper. Blessings to Bali.!

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