A taste of Balinese ceremony

9th of November

This morning, the atmosphere is electric in our Homestay. There is a ceremony tomorrow and the whole family is helping with preparations.

Adrien left at 2AM to hike Mount Batur for sunrise. Unable to walk properly yet after a minor surgery on my foot, I stayed in and enjoy my breakfast while watching the buzz going on in the house.

I asked Wirati if she wanted help, she’s been busy cooking since yesterday… However she insists that I should relax…

The children are running around everywhere. The 2 younger girls are preparing offerings, while the 2 boys are hanging decorations in front of every room, followed by Hardy, Wirati’s 2-year-old nephew who’s got a very strong character already! Her husband explained to me that these leaf made decorations are shields for protection.

They are both English teachers, but we still struggle communicating sometime. We have asked a few times already about the ceremony tomorrow. So far we understood that it is a public holiday in Ubud (not sure if the rest of Bali as well), which occurs every 6 months. But we are short of explanations on what is celebrated.

Wirati has invited all the guests to participate to the ceremony. She had been very meticulous is preparing and choosing a traditional outfit for every of her guest who wants to join.

We are hoping to understand better tomorrow what this special day represent.

10th of November

Today is the day of the ceremony. We wake up at 7 and have breakfast first. The entire family is already wearing their traditional sarong and is busy with the final preparations The scent of incense is particularly strong this morning but not unpleasant.

Wirati explains that at 9am, the whole family will gather in the family’s temple for a prayer (in Bali, most houses have their own temple) and that we can join them wearing our sarong. Then we will go to the village’s temple for another ceremony.

We go back to our room to dress in the outfit she provided us. My dress is not that complicated to figure out, but Adrien is getting help from Wirati’s brother to complete his outfit. I think we don’t actually look that bad dressed in traditional Balinese cloths, but it definitely suits the locals better!

By 9, everybody is ready. Even Hardy is all dressed up and seem particularly excited this morning. The whole family is entering the temple and takes a seat. We are welcomed to enter the temple but we quickly understand that we are there only to watch and not actually participate.

It takes a while until everyone is finally ready. The grandfather keeps looking around him. I think he doesn’t speak much any more. He’s there and smiles from time to time.

Hardy is making a show, we don’t understand him but it sounds like he is singing and wants to dance.

Finally, the atmosphere calms down and the prayer starts. Each member has a bowl in front of them with a few different flowers in it and a burning incense stick. Adrien, myself and a few more guests are sitting at the back watching the ceremony take place.

They start with a singing prayer, then with each flower held up to their head repeat a different prayer. The women put each flowers in their hair while the men fut them behind their ears.

When the prayers are over, Wirati gets a bowl filled with Holy water. She dips a flower in it and sprinkles every family member and us as well. We are also allowed to take a few rice grains and stick them on our forehead and chest for thankfulness.

After this first ceremony, we all walk to the village’s temple together. We are the only few tourists participating and I can tell from the look of local people that they are quite amused to see us dressed up with rice on our for! We even get a few thumbs up on the way to the temple…

It is around 11h and the heat is starting to intensify. The temple is already full with people sitting on the floor. We find a spot in the shadow and watch people coming and going. We wait for quite a while for something to start but we don’t know really what. As the temple continues to fill up, with people carrying around a bowl with flowers and offerings, we eventually move back to the entrance to free up our spot in the shade. Sitting at the entrance’s steps, we wait. Finally the prayer starts. It seems to be the same as earlier this morning. I sit besides a young woman, who offers to share her flowers with me and join her in the prayer. So I watched as she does and meticulously follow her.

When the prayer is over, we followed the family back to the house. We tried once more to ask about the meaning of this special day but didn’t get much more information other than it is a public holiday…

Wirati shares a bit of their food for us to try, then everyone eventually goes back to their daily activities.

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