Celebrating the Melasti Ceremony: A Balinese Ritual of Purification Before the Day of Silence

Image courtesy of Imadedana

The month of March is where the Balinese New Year, Nyepi, falls, and thus it is the time for us to pause and reflect. Nyepi Day is Balinese Saka Calendar’s New Year, where for a full 24 hours, the island of Bali turns off all lights and sounds, stops all traffic, forbids all people to leave their houses, puts a pause on all worldly activities, and meditates, while complete silence and serenity reigns over the entire island.

 The streets are off limits to everyone, all electronic devices must be switched off and the airport even closes for a full day, with all other international planes rerouted above so not to disturb the utter silence beneath. Nyepi is based on the story of when King Kaniska I of India was chosen in 78 A.D. The King was famous for his wisdom and tolerance for the Hinduism and Buddhism societies. In that age, Aji Saka did Dharma Yatra (the missionary tour to promote and spread Hinduism) to Indonesia and introduces the Saka year.

The celebration leading to the Day of Silence, however, is the opposite of silent. In front of Hotel Tugu Bali, by the beach, at the famed Batu Bolong temple, a huge Melasti ceremony regularly takes place 2 days before the Nyepi day. This purification ritual attracts thousands of Balinese to travel from far, bringing their houses of the gods (called Krebeng) to the temple for the annual cleansing and blessing. It is a whole day of music, dance & prayers, where many times the spirits of the gods would enter some of the praying Balinese and possess them. This is considered a blessing as it means the gods have visited and showed their presence. The priest would then bring them up to conscience with the holy water.

Image courtesy of Ridwan pictures

The evening before Nyepi is called Pengrupukan, where they would parade the famous Ogoh-Ogoh. Ogoh-Ogoh are scary giant statues created artfully by every village all over Bali (think Bali’s scarier version of the Brazilian Carnival!) portraying the spirit of the demons that pollute human’s soul as well as the form of malignant activities that destroy the environment. These Ogoh-Ogoh parade should not be missed, and thereafter at the end of the evening, these giant statues (that are very costly to make, by the way) are burnt completely in a giant fire in various points of the islands, signifying a pure and blissful beginning on the Nyepi Day.

Whether you decide to stay in or out of Bali, it’s a time to marvel at the island’s culture and experience the magic of paradise.