Magical Melasti

Secret Bali | Written By, NOW! BALI |

All across the island, processions wend their way down to the beaches and the sea. Some come packed into trucks, their cymbals clashing, gongs resonating proudly.  Others walk, sometimes several miles, in bright colourful processions, dotted with yellow umbrellas.  Trails of people, men carrying gongs, others shouldering heavy bamboo lifts that hold the precious iconic symbols of the gods, march on to the sea. They all have the same purpose, to bring their religious treasures…

Text and Photos by Ayu Sekar

Melasti is the big cleansing ceremony that precedes Nyepi and marks beginning of the Balinese New Year.

All across the island, processions wend their way down to the beaches and the sea. Some come packed into trucks, their cymbals clashing, gongs resonating proudly.  Others walk, sometimes several miles, in bright colourful processions, dotted with yellow umbrellas.  Trails of people, men carrying gongs, others shouldering heavy bamboo lifts that hold the precious iconic symbols of the gods, march on to the sea.

They all have the same purpose, to bring their religious treasures and paraphernalia for a spiritual cleansing, before the start of the Balinese New Year and Nyepi.

Every village, every banjar on the island, takes part in this huge day. The beaches where the ceremonies take place are designated holy places and intricate time tables are drawn up so that each banjar can be accommodated.

Some go to the beaches of the south, villagers from the Ubud area go to the beaches near Sukawati, and people from Klung Kung go to the bright black beaches in the east.

This Balinese Saka New Year 1935 just started in March, and days before the annual day of silence Melasti ceremonies could be seen, all day long. The first ceremonies start long before the first strands dawn and continue all day until sunset and darkness descends. The timetables work well and everyone is accommodated.

Everyone dresses in white, which makes a beautiful and stark contrast to the black sand beaches of the east. Purification is the order of the day, and even the ornate and sacred barongs are taken to the water’s edge to be splashed with holy water and to keep them in good condition for the year.

Melasti is just one of several rituals that the Balinese engage in before Nyepi, the great day of silence, all designed to bring a fresh, bright start for the New Year of Saka 1935 in the Balinese calendar.

If you get a chance to experience Nyepi in Bali, try to watch a Melasti procession as well. The experience is well worthwhile. 

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