Letter Hari Raya Melasti

Posted by Laura Cohn on

I awoke early early this morning from a partial jet lag dream, or so I thought. In truth, much of my existence in Bali hangs between this dreamy sweaty hard to believe this is happening state and YES - this really happening? I continue to pinch myself to see if I am awake - and to be as awake as I can.


At 5 AM the gong of the kul kul (large, wooden long bell in the temple that acts as the alarm bell) crept through the screen of y room. Dong, dong, dong repeat to call the locals to temple on this most auspicious day – Hari Melasti. The drumming woke me but the gamelan wooed me from my comfy bed. I threw on my sarong, grabbed my camera and walked down the path to the main street where by the whole village was decked in their finest to load into open back trucks 6 across 10 deep (60 per truck) to schlep in a procession down to the sea. Piled into the trucks like sardines they are reminiscent of the masses headed to Auschwitz only wearing smiles on their faces and their finest clothes, all together to prey and be blessed by their gods, their priest, and their ancestral spirits. This is a major holy day time in Bali with today being the day of Melasti, where everyone brings the vessels that hold their ancestors spirits, from the temple down to the sea for special blessings. Tomorrow is Nyepi, the day of silence, and all this is wedged between the two most holy days in Bali - Galungan and 10 days later Kuningan (kind of like Christmas wedged between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur). Needless to say I am totally unable to get any work done this week because all commerce virtually stop so everyone can prepare for all the ceremonies. So instead of running around shopping like a chicken with my head cut off, I am forced to stop, to be, and to take in all the splendor of the rituals of the Balinese - one of the most seductive aspects of Balinese culture that I fell in love with 20 years ago when I first came arrived. The colors intense and saturated, the smells of incense everywhere, and the fancy outfits they don for prayer


and temple bedazzle and floor me every time I see them coming down the road - literally take my breath away. The last truck in the procession has the small gamelan that will serenade the group on their drive an hour to the beach. Gong gong gong with the engines starting they head out. Back to bed for me to resume my dreams. Or was this it?


A few days have passed and I am now almost ready to begin work tomorrow after this wonderful time of rest. Today is Kuningan the final day of this holy period where the ceremonies are to usher the ancestoral spirits back to the other world after their 10 day visit. We eat yellow rice and smoked duck20(yummmmmmmy!) and go visiting to all the relatives. I will join my dear friends family for prayer, lunch and then to head home to rest up for a big night in Ubud. There is a concert of Michael Franti - a well known world music guy - where 600 white expats and yogi followers will dance and sway in a bamboo grove near by. It is quite a happening here, and a fund raiser for my friends kids school. This will be a strong contrast to the spectacle of the Balinese in prayer earlier today. But life in Bali is all about balance - the ying and the yang, the black and the white, the local and the expat side by side.


I hope all of us balance, keeping the many divergent sides of our life and spirits dancing together, in check and awake.


All my Bali love, Laura


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