©Courtesy of Instagram account @sulastudio

Three days prior to Nyepi, the Day of Silence, the ritual of purification by Tirta Amerta (Water of Life) of all sacred objects from temples, Pratima shrines, Barong, Rangda etc. is elaborately performed on the seashore all over Bali. The water is collected either from holy springs or from the sea. This is called Melasti (or Mekiyis/Melis).

Tirta Amerta is the drink of the Devas (reference the Rigveda), which is the oldest known Vedic Sanskrit text. In the Samudra Manthana (churning of the ocean) legend, the Devas manage to overcome loss of their immortality by churning the ocean and releasing the Amrita (Amerta, Water of Life), one of the many riches released by the ocean.  Perhaps this is why over eons water from the ocean and even from perennial springs is considered to be of divine origin and hence used in purification ceremonies to cleanse all that is sullied by the iniquities of humanity.

©Courtesy of Instagram account @manggalih

The roads to the beaches and holy springs are crowded with the faithful. Villagers from different Banjars dressed in fabulous colourful kebayas, sarongs and Udengs, with the women walking in line expertly balancing huge offerings of fruits and flowers on their heads. The sight of their grace and poise is overwhelming to any first-time tourist. There is an urgency that drives them, an urgency that all must be cleansed of the bad karma ‘before’ the end of the year (Nyepi being the New Year). And as the processions wind down to the sea the Gamelan keeps the tempo of religious fervour at a heightened pitch with its haunting musical tones that have witnessed such ceremonies over centuries. The spiritual sense embraces all that immerse themselves in the purification ritual.

The ceremony of cleansing on the beach is more symbolic than actual washing of all sacred objects and implements used in temples, barong, rangda, gamelan instruments and others.  The positive (barong) and negative (rangda) must be appeased to maintain the balance between the two opposing forces of good and evil so that harmony is kept in the world, a world continuously churning in the cosmos.

The purification ceremony continues through till the evening to ensure all have been purified by the Tirta Amerta (Water of Life).

This is truly a spiritual experience for a tourist to witness; the colours, exotic attires, the sublime attention to detail in the presentation of offerings and an intense religiosity that is not intrusive but delightfully inclusive.

This is Bali.