Hills with the grass savanna as high as the waist which swayed following the direction of the wind becomes their destination. On the other side, there is the Ayung River and its tributaries where the water are clear, winding dividing the hills. Rice fields decorate the slopes in the opposite hill. Coconut and banana trees add beauty to the landscape. At this point the group stopped, make a single line in order to cross. (Ayos Purwoaji / Travelboogie)

TEXT & PHOTO: Ayos Purwoaji

Preparation can take place up to three months, all the villagers comes a part.

Afternoon has not yet drown when I Wayan Japa led a large group of people who marched across the village of Sayan, Ubud, Bali. The large procession consisted of children to adults. Teenage girl walking neatly with colorful traditional outfits, with Banten or offerings on their heads. Families bring their sacred objects which are ancestral heritage. Male teenagers from all over the village who can play music accompanied the group by forming an orchestra, walked and hummed an energetic Balinese from the gamelan instruments. Small children are assigned to carry flags with specific symbols.

In the procession there are also some Hindu religious leaders, pedanda and pemangku, using white clothes typical of Hinduism. They looked magnificent in their Balinese outfits, even the group of small children who joined the group did not forget to wear headbands, and sarong. The destination of the group is the village water source. They will walk up and down the beautiful rice terraces. Ubud is famous for using the land terracing systems. Reminds us of the movie The Fall directed by Tarsem Singh that used the rice fields of Ubud as one of the backgrounds.

The small and winding roads did not make the group of grandmothers in the group becomes fatigue.Their wrinkled legs could still step lightly and relaxed, even when the group must pass through hilly areas. They looked energetic and could still walk among the rice field without assistance. “I am used to, from a young age I already participated in this procession, “said a man.

Hills with the grass savanna as high as the waist which swayed following the direction of the wind becomes their destination. On the other side, there is the Ayung River and its tributaries where the water are clear, winding dividing the hills. Rice fields decorate the slopes in the opposite hill. Coconut and banana trees add beauty to the landscape. At this point the group stopped, make a single line in order to cross. The bridge is very simple, only two pieces of bamboo stems intact. This bridge crosses the Ayung River, a favorite place to do rafting in Ubud.

Finally they arrived at a spring, the Balinese call it Beji. They also perform a ritual called the mebejian, a procession to get holly water that will be used to bless the entire family. Previously, this group forms a large circle with the center of a small old temple. Under the leafy shade of bamboo, the pemangku (religious leader) leads a ritual recitation of prayer, in order to state their gratitude to Sang Hyang Widi Wasa. Instead the small children were engrossed in waterplay in the small lake beside the springs.

Mebejian is none other than a part of the Odalan ceremony or birthday of the temple. Bali where the majority of the population are Hindus choose an easy to find location for the temple as a place of worship. At home in the small to large sizes. Almost every village in Bali has three temples, Pura Dalem for matters relating to the death, Pura Puseh or temple of origin, and Pura Bale Agung devoted to the gods. Each family also has their own temple in the courtyard, usually called sanggah or mrajan. There is also Pura Dadia used by large families. Please count how many temples in Bali. It is only natural if Bali, one of the most beautiful islands in the world is called the island of thousand temples, although the number of temples has certainly reached more than a thousand.

The odalan ceremony, also called piodalan, an anniversary ceremony of the temple. Odalan is a marker when a temple was built and the gods were invited into it. There are two types of the odalan ceremony, which is a big odalan ceremony or also called the Odalana Madudus Agung conducted for four days, and a small odalan ceremony or odalan alit which is held only one day. A special odalan ceremony can last until one week.

Each temple celebrates a small odalan ceremony once every 210 days, or every seven months in the Gregorian calendar. Balinese calendar has different amount of months and different amount of days than the Gregorian calender. The big odalan ceremony has a longer cycle. Odalan Eka Dasa Rudra, the largest odalan ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of Pura Besakih is only held once in a hundred years. At one time odalan can be done almost every day.

In general, there are actually four phases in performing an odalan ceremony. The procession lasts only for four days, but the preparations made by the family of I Wayan Japa took nearly three months. The first ritual is the Sanctification, the concept is more emphasized on efforts to get rid of things that are considered bad and dirty. Next ritual is Mendak Tirta, a number of senior family members go and get holy water in the Great Pura Besakih. The third ritual is Mebejian which takes place in the village fountain. The last ritual is Odalan, this is the top event that ends the series of this great ceremony.

Do not ask the cost of the ceremony, on average each family spends tens of millions of rupiah for such a grand event. Between one step of the ceremony to another separated by a day. A ritual is held according to the calculation on when the good day is, which is calculated by the pedanda. Determination of good days from the calculation using the traditional calendar is the authority of the pedanda. In the structure of Balinese society, pedanda is a very important entity.

One of the interesting side of Odalan is its function as a tool of socialization among the community. I Wayan Japa claims that the preparation for the big
odalan takes place for many months. But all that burden he does not bear alone. “All of the citizens of banjar help, making the preparations easier. No one asked for money, all voluntary, “he said. It was very noticeable that in the preparation the villagers come to work when the Odalan takes place. Everyone was busy. Not to mention the ladies who does not stop to decorate every corner of the house with decorations.

The decorations they make shows strongly of the Balinese characteristics; umbrella for ceremonies, red rerumbai, bamboo container, colorful offerings, shiny white cloth, golden yellow cloth, and hats made from yellow coconut leaves for the young dancers. They also put the offerings in the form of food and fruits on some beautiful sculpted metal container. The youths who are assigned to play music incessantly plays the beautiful bleganjur composition. Actually, these young people is a group of Balinese people who play the gamelan instruments and usually performs at the Four Season Resort, Ubud. But for the odalan ceremony, they gladly lend a hand. “We do not have to be paid, we are already pleased if food are provided,” said Subakta, flutist in the group.

For the matter of food, I Wayan Japa handed the affair to Bli Kerta, a special chef for religious events. Wearing a simple T-shirt, Bli Kerta kept fanning the skewers of young pigs satay that he has made. Fat are falling, melted, leaving a brownish red meat crispy on the smoke. Bli Kerta said that the odalan ceremony is a special ceremony, therefore special dishes should be served. “Offerings must be an animal, usually young ducks and pigs weighing 50 kilograms,” he said. He understands very well the ins and outs of offerings for religious ceremonies. Bli Kerta did not only make satay, but also made a variety of food such as lawar and grilled pig. He had whispered, “The most delicious grilled pig in Bali comes from Ubud.”

For the preparation of this Odalan, Bli Kerta has not slept for three days and three nights. He becomes the most busy person on big odalan celebration. He grills and cook all kinds of food. Even all of the seasoning was made by his own hand. Luckily he is a fitness instructor at a fitness center in Ubud, so no need to doubt his stamina. “But if wine is not available, maybe I’ve passed out from yesterday. Drinking wine makes me awake, “said Bli Kerta while fanning his satay.

All the dishes made by Bli Kerta is intended for Sanghyang Widi Wasa, but in the end of the ceremony, after all piodalan procession is completed, all of these servings can be eaten by the guests who attend. It is a big party. All will run out quickly, including the satays that were fanned by Bli Kerta all day long. That is also the reason why Odalan should not be missed, because food is so abundant.

Sacred Philosophical Dance

Odalan can not be separated from the Balinese dance and other Balinese cultures. At the time when the big Odalan takes place, several dances are demonstrated, one of the dance is Rejang Dewa dance, a sacred dance that can only be performed by women who are still pure. The number of dancers is eight and all of them are small children. Their bodies are covered with a yellow traditional outfit and they wear a hat of plaited yellow coconut leaves. Very beautiful. This dance is a dance to welcome the gods who come to bless the ceremony.

The next dance is the Sidokarya mask dance, this is also sacred, but more magical and philosophical. Tells us about a god who incarnated in the figure of a wise old man, giving a lecture in the language of Bali which essentially gives a blessing at the temple and the people who prays in the temple. Beneath this old mask there is the face of Aribudi Sangade, a Sidakarya Mask dancer who is often invited on various ceremonies at Sayan. Before beginning to perform this dance Sangade conducts various kinds of rituals and chanting special incantations with the Sidakarya mask placed in front of him. Maybe he was dancing in a trance, like most mystical dances in Java, namely the reog Ponorogo. “This sacred dance not everyone can perform,” said Sangade after the event is finished.

This mask dance performs in a long period of time. There is not only one mask, but can be changed up to four times; Topeng Pajegan, Topeng Tua, Topeng Penasar, and Topeng Peranda. Each mask represents a symbol and a particular message. The movement and sound of Sangade will automatically change when a face mask attached. When wearing the Topeng Tua mask for example, the whole body gesture and expression Sangade become brittle. The halting movements symbolizes the dry old bones. His voice turned heavy and deep. It is possible that it is not Sangade’s own voice.

This dance is actually a visualization of the holy book Geguritan Dalem Sidhakary which is read together in Sanskrit language when the odalan ceremony takes place. This activity to read the holly book is called Miwirama. Usually carried out by village elders who can still read these books in the ancient language, there are not many of them. One of the elders who can still read is Mr Jero.”There are not many young people nowadays who can read the Sanskrit letters, therefore we the old ones are the one who would read, whereas the letters are very small,” said Mr. Jero while his glasses are slipping. Mr. Jero and three other elders also came voluntarily, as well as others who attended and helped. The principle is to help each other. The beauty of the Balinese community is still clearly visible here, away from materialism and modernity. An ancient face but always missed.

At that time there are only two tourists who saw firsthand the odalan ceremony, that is me and Kenichi, a Japanese tourists. Incidentally he was visiting Ubud. The tour guide was the niece of I Wayan Japa, that is why Kenichi can be present in this celebration. In general, the odalan ceremony can be viewed tourists. But there are some things that must be maintained, one of which is the outfit. Visitors who want to see the ceremony need to use gloves and Balinese headbands. This makes access to every corner becomes wider. Kenichi looks awkward with gloves and headband, but he was so enthusiastic, his face lit up and he recorded everything with a small digital camcorder in his right hand, including the closing dance which is the Gabor dance. This dance is also known as Pendet dance and was held by six women with various age who danced in pairs. Kenichi was so impressed, “This is Bali!,” Said Kenichi.

Kenichi could be just like me, want to find the true face of Bali. A face that is purely cultural, and far from the tendentious touristic friendliness. The Celebration of the Odalan ceremony in Ubud is one of them. Such cultural richness that will make Bali hold steady. And of course, always be missed by travelers who seek the face of Bali which is still pure. []