Balinese Hindus flock to island’s beaches for Melasti ritual, tradition ahead of ‘Day of Silence’ (PHOTOS)

A Balinese man in a trance holds daggers to his cheeks during a Melasti ceremony prayer at Petitenget beach near Denpasar on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali on March 14, 2018. Melasti is a purification festival which is held several days before “Nyepi”, the day of silence, when Hindus on the island of Bali are not allowed to work, travel or take part in any indulgence. The Indonesian holiday island of Bali shuts down for the day of silence to mark the Hindu new year on March 17. Photo: Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP

Balinese Hindus flocked to the island’s shores on Wednesday to mark Melasti, a speical ceremony held annually before the island goes into its ‘Day of Silence’ for Nyepi, the new year on the Hindu Saka calendar.

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Tens of thousands donning traditional Balinese dress in white and yellow joined processions across the island to their local beaches for the purifying ceremony that always precedes Nyepi by several days.

In the visually remarkable ceremony, Hindus march to carry offerings to the sea, the point being to cleanse the body and the Earth of evil spirits, explained Tembau Customary Village Elder, Made Metra on the sidelines of the event in Sanur.

“The Melasti Ritual aims to purify the elements of ‘Bhuana Agung’, the Earth, and ‘Bhuana Alit,’ the soul,” Metra said on Wednesday, as quoted by CNN Indonesia.

The responsibility of arranging the Melasti ceremonies is handled on the customary village level, said Prof. Dr. I Gusti Ngruah Sudiana, Bali chairman of the Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia (PHDI), the country’s leading authority on Hinduism.

While Melasti is largely performed at the beach, there are small villages in the mountains of Bali that carry out the ceremony at the lake, said Sudiana. 

Nyepi will fall on Saturday, March 17, starting at 6am and will run 24 hours until Sunday, March 18 at 6am. During this time, traditional customs hold that everyone should stay inside, refrain from using electricity, keep lights out, take time off from work and entertainment, and use the time for self-reflection.

The practice is guided by the Balinese belief that mythical evil spirits come out on the new year. By hiding, they trick the spirits into thinking Bali is deserted.

The airport is shutdown for the 24-hour period and mobile providers have been asked to turn cellular data off for the duration of the holiday tis year.

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