A Day at the Beach – Bali Style

Secret Bali | Written By, NOW! BALI |

When westerners go the beach, it is a big day out – a time to relax, to play, splash in the waves, to sit in the sun, work on our tan and generally have a good time. The Balinese version is a little different! For the Balinese, the sea is the dwelling place of the demons that need to be appeased with offerings and lots of attention. It is the last port of call (and sometimes the first) for many of the most important ceremonies. Sometimes the sacred ritual offerings are taken for blessings and prayer before a big ceremony starts.

TEXT AND Photos by ayu sekar

When westerners go the beach, it is a big day out – a time to relax, to play, splash in the waves, to sit in the sun, work on our tan and generally have a good time. The Balinese version is a little different! 

For the Balinese, the sea is the dwelling place of the demons that need to be appeased with offerings and lots of attention. It is the last port of call (and sometimes the first) for many of the most important ceremonies. Sometimes the sacred ritual offerings are taken for blessings and prayer before a big ceremony starts.

The Melasti Ceremony is conducted once a year just three days before Nyepi, Bali’s silent day. Every banjar (village group) on the island conducts this very important ceremony and relevant beaches are timetabled with schedules for the different villages. This is something to experience! At the Melasti celebration, the holy Hindu symbols are carried to the sea, to be cleansed and blessed. They often arrive in fleets of trucks if the village is far away. Then the procession is assembled and the white garbed group will make its way to the beach for the rituals. It is usually accompanied by traditional gamelan music, featuring clashing symbols and gongs, adding even more energy to the event. 

At the end of a cremation ceremony, the last rites and offerings take place as ashes and offerings are scattered to the sea. The family, relatives, and usually the whole village, make a procession to the sea for the final rites. Here the body’s elements are purified and ready to return to the universe awaiting the next rebirth.

Another time for a beach celebration is before a big temple festival, which every temple celebrates each seven months. The Odalan festival requires the ritual objects and the gods who have descended, to make their way to the beach or a nearby river for cleansing and blessing. Everyone is dressed in their best and it is a time for prayer and blessings. 

From Timbrah, a small and very traditional Bali Aga community in the centre of East Bali, their ceremony was no less than arresting!  Some people waited for hours, enjoying the leisure, and the food and entertainments provided by traders. The beach was littered with piles of beautiful offerings. Sun worshippers walked past curiously, a perfect example of the sacred and profane and a huge culture clash.

Timbrah has a large Brahmin population who were in charge of much of the proceedings. Curious tourists gazed in awe at the spectacular display. The small beach temple was inundated with offerings as was the beach. When the prayers began, the energy was so strong it was palpable. 

This is the energy that keeps Bali strong, irregardless of outside influences. 

 

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NOW! BALI

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